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					    An Historical
      Mystery
                              by

       Honoré de Balzac
            Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley

A Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publication
An Historical Mystery by Honoré de Balzac, trans. Katharine Prescott Wormeley is a publication
of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable Document file is furnished free and without
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An Historical Mystery by Honoré de Balzac, trans. Katharine Prescott Wormeley, the Pennsylva-
nia State University, Electronic Classics Series, Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, Hazleton, PA 18202-
1291 is a Portable Document File produced as part of an ongoing student publication project to
bring classical works of literature, in English, to free and easy access of those wishing to make
use of them.

Cover Design: Jim Manis

Copyright © 2002 The Pennsylvania State University




The Pennsylvania State University is an equal opportunity university.
                                                 Balzac
                                                                              PART I
     An Historical
                                                                            CHAPTER I
       Mystery                                                                  JUDAS
                     by                               THE AUTUMN of the year 1803 was one of the finest in the
                                                      early part of that period of the present century which we
        Honoré de Balzac                              now call “Empire.” Rain had refreshed the earth during the
                                                      month of October, so that the trees were still green and leafy
 Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley            in November. The French people were beginning to put faith
                                                      in a secret understanding between the skies and Bonaparte,
                 Dedication
                                                      then declared Consul for life,—a belief in which that man
          To Monsieur de Margone.                     owes part of his prestige; strange to say, on the day the sun
                                                      failed him, in 1812, his luck ceased!
In grateful remembrance, from his guest at the          About four in the afternoon on the fifteenth of November,
               Chateau de Sache.                      1803, the sun was casting what looked like scarlet dust upon
                                                      the venerable tops of four rows of elms in a long baronial
                                    De Balzac.        avenue, and sparkling on the sand and grassy places of an
                                                      immense rond-point, such as we often see in the country where
                                                      land is cheap enough to be sacrificed to ornament. The air

                                                  3
                                                    An Historical Mystery
was so pure, the atmosphere so tempered that a family was             mal had just raised its head and was snuffing the air, first
sitting out of doors as if it were summer. A man dressed in a         down the avenue nearly a mile long which stretched before
hunting-jacket of green drilling with green buttons, and              them, and then up the cross road where it entered the rond-
breeches of the same stuff, and wearing shoes with thin soles         point to the left.
and gaiters to the knee, was cleaning a gun with the minute             “No,” answered Michu, “but a brute I do not wish to miss,
care a skilful huntsman gives to the work in his leisure hours.       a lynx.”
This man had neither game nor game-bag, nor any of the                  The dog, a magnificent spaniel, white with brown spots,
accoutrements which denote either departure for a hunt or             growled.
the return from it; and two women sitting near were looking             “Hah!” said Michu, talking to himself, “spies! the country
at him as though beset by a terror they could ill-conceal.            swarms with them.”
Any one observing the scene taking place in this leafy nook             Madame Michu looked appealingly to heaven. A beautiful
would have shuddered, as the old mother-in-law and the                fair woman with blue eyes, composed and thoughtful in ex-
wife of the man we speak of were now shuddering. A hunts-             pression and made like an antique statue, she seemed to be a
man does not take such minute precautions with his weapon             prey to some dark and bitter grief. The husband’s appear-
to kill small game, neither does he use, in the department of         ance may explain to a certain extent the evident fear of the
the Aube, a heavy rifled carbine.                                     two women. The laws of physiognomy are precise, not only
  “Shall you kill a roe-buck, Michu?” said his handsome               in their application to character, but also in relation to the
young wife, trying to assume a laughing air.                          destinies of life. There is such a thing as prophetic physiog-
  Before replying, Michu looked at his dog, which had been            nomy. If it were possible (and such a vital statistic would be
lying in the sun, its paws stretched out and its nose on its          of value to society) to obtain exact likenesses of those who
paws, in the charming attitude of a trained hunter. The ani-          perish on the scaffold, the science of Lavatar and also that of

                                                                  4
                                                              Balzac
Gall would prove unmistakably that the heads of all such               had not been (as he was during the Terror) president of a
persons, even those who are innocent, show prophetic signs.            club of Jacobins, this peculiarity of his head would in itself
Yes, fate sets its mark on the faces of those who are doomed           have made him terrible to behold. His Socratic face with its
to die a violent death of any kind. Now, this sign, this seal,         blunt nose was surmounted by a fine forehead, so project-
visible to the eye of an observer, was imprinted on the ex-            ing, however, that it overhung the rest of the features. The
pressive face of the man with the rifled carbine. Short and            ears, well detached from the head, had the sort of mobility
stout, abrupt and active in his motions as a monkey, though            which we find in those of wild animals, which are ever on
calm in temperament, Michu had a white face injected with              the qui-vive. The mouth, half-open, as the custom usually is
blood, and features set close together like those of a Tar-            among country-people, showed teeth that were strong and
tar,—a likeness to which his crinkled red hair conveyed a              white as almonds, but irregular. Gleaming red whiskers
sinister expression. His eyes, clear and yellow as those of a          framed this face, which was white and yet mottled in spots.
tiger, showed depths behind them in which the glance of                The hair, cropped close in front and allowed to grow long at
whoever examined the man might lose itself and never find              the sides and on the back of the head, brought into relief, by
either warmth or motion. Fixed, luminous, and rigid, those             its savage redness, all the strange and fateful peculiarities of
eyes terrified whoever gazed into them. The singular con-              this singular face. The neck which was short and thick, seemed
trast between the immobility of the eyes and the activity of           to tempt the axe.
the body increased the chilling impression conveyed by a                  At this moment the sunbeams, falling in long lines athwart
first sight of Michu. Action, always prompt in this man, was           the group, lighted up the three heads at which the dog from
the outcome of a single thought; just as the life of animals is,       time to time glanced up. The spot on which this scene took
without reflection, the outcome of instinct. Since 1793 he             place was magnificently fine. The rond-point is at the en-
had trimmed his red beard to the shape of a fan. Even if he            trance of the park of Gondreville, one of the finest estates in

                                                                   5
                                                   An Historical Mystery
France, and by far the finest in the departments of the Aube;        wasting his substance at court, built the chateau of
it boasts of long avenues of elms, a castle built from designs       Gondreville, enlarged the estate by the purchase of others,
by Mansart, a park of fifteen hundred acres enclosed by a            and united the several domains, solely for the purposes of a
stone wall, nine large farms, a forest, mills, and meadows.          hunting-ground. He also built the Simeuse mansion at Troyes,
This almost regal property belonged before the Revolution            not far from that of the Cinq-Cygnes. These two old houses
to the family of Simeuse. Ximeuse was a feudal estate in             and the bishop’s palace were long the only stone mansions at
Lorraine; the name was pronounced Simeuse, and in course             Troyes. The marquis sold Simeuse to the Duc de Lorraine.
of time it came to be written as pronounced.                         His son wasted the father’s savings and some part of his great
   The great fortune of the Simeuse family, adherents of the         fortune under the reign of Louis XV., but he subsequently
House of Burgundy, dates from the time when the Guises               entered the navy, became a vice-admiral, and redeemed the
were in conflict with the Valois. Richelieu first, and after-        follies of his youth by brilliant services. The Marquis de
wards Louis XIV. remembered their devotion to the factious           Simeuse, son of this naval worthy, perished with his wife on
house of Lorraine, and rebuffed them. Then the Marquis de            the scaffold at Troyes, leaving twin sons, who emigrated and
Simeuse, an old Burgundian, old Guiser, old leaguer, old             were, at the time our history opens, still in foreign parts fol-
frondeur (he inherited the four great rancors of the nobility        lowing the fortunes of the house of Conde.
against royalty), came to live at Cinq-Cygne. The former               The rond-point was the scene of the meet in the time of
courtier, rejected at the Louvre, married the widow of the           the “Grand Marquis”—a name given in the family to the
Comte de Cinq-Cygne, younger branch of the famous fam-               Simeuse who built Gondreville. Since 1789 Michu lived in
ily of Chargeboeuf, one of the most illustrious names in             the hunting lodge at the entrance to the park, built in the
Champagne, and now as celebrated and opulent as the elder.           reign of Louis XIV., and called the pavilion of Cinq-Cygne.
The marquis, among the richest men of his day, instead of            The village of Cinq-Cygne is at the end of the forest of

                                                                 6
                                                           Balzac
Nodesme (a corruption of Notre-Dame) which was reached              The only trace remaining of their ancient splendor was an
through the fine avenue of four rows of elms where Michu’s          antechamber paved with marble in squares of black and white,
dog was now suspecting spies. After the death of the Grand          which was entered on the park side through a door with
Marquis this pavilion fell into disuse. The vice-admiral pre-       small leaded panes, such as might still be seen at Versailles
ferred the court and the sea to Champagne, and his son gave         before Louis-Philippe turned that Chateau into an asylum
the dilapidated building to Michu for a dwelling.                   for the glories of France. The pavilion is divided inside by an
  This noble structure is of brick, with vermiculated stone-        old staircase of worm-eaten wood, full of character, which
work at the angles and on the casings of the doors and win-         leads to the first story. Above that is an immense garret. This
dows. On either side is a gateway of finely wrought iron,           venerable edifice is covered by one of those vast roofs with
eaten with rust and connected by a railing, beyond which is         four sides, a ridgepole decorated with leaden ornaments, and
a wide and deep ha-ha, full of vigorous trees, its parapets         a round projecting window on each side, such as Mansart
bristling with iron arabesques, the innumerable sharp points        very justly delighted in; for in France, the Italian attics and
of which are a warning to evil-doers.                               flat roofs are a folly against which our climate protests. Michu
  The park walls begin on each side of the circumference of         kept his fodder in this garret. That portion of the park which
the rond-point; on the one hand the fine semi-circle is de-         surrounds the old pavilion is English in style. A hundred
fined by slopes planted with elms; on the other, within the         feet from the house a former lake, now a mere pond well
park, a corresponding half-circle is formed by groups of rare       stocked with fish, makes known its vicinity as much by a
trees. The pavilion, therefore, stands at the centre of this        thin mist rising above the tree-tops as by the croaking of a
round open space, which extends before it and behind it in          thousand frogs, toads, and other amphibious gossips who
the shape of two horseshoes. Michu had turned the rooms             discourse at sunset. The time-worn look of everything, the
on the lower floor into a stable, a kitchen, and a wood-shed.       deep silence of the woods, the long perspective of the av-

                                                                7
                                                      An Historical Mystery
enue, the forest in the distance, the rusty iron-work, the              wife, his mother-in-law, a servant-lad named Gaucher, and
masses of stone draped with velvet mosses, all made poetry              the cook named Marianne, was shared throughout a neigh-
of this old structure, which still exists.                              borhood of twenty miles in circumference. It may be well to
  At the moment when our history begins Michu was lean-                 give, without further delay, the reasons for this fear,—all the
ing against a mossy parapet on which he had laid his pow-               more because an account of them will complete the moral
der-horn, cap, handkerchief, screw-driver, and rags,—in fact,           portrait of the man.
all the utensils needed for his suspicious occupation. His wife’s         The old Marquis de Simeuse transferred the greater part
chair was against the wall beside the outer door of the house,          of his property in 1790; but, overtaken by circumstances, he
above which could still be seen the arms of the Simeuse fam-            had not been able to put the estate of Gondreville into sure
ily, richly carved, with their noble motto, “Cy meurs.” The             hands. Accused of corresponding with the Duke of Brunswick
old mother, in peasant dress, had moved her chair in front of           and the Prince of Cobourg, the marquis and his wife were
Madame Michu, so that the latter might put her feet upon                thrust into prison and condemned to death by the revolu-
the rungs and keep them from dampness.                                  tionary tribunal of Troyes, of which Madame Michu’s father
   “Where’s the boy?” said Michu to his wife.                           was then president. The fine domain of Gondreville was sold
   “Round the pond; he is crazy about the frogs and the in-             as national property. The head-keeper, to the horror of many,
sects,” answered the mother.                                            was present at the execution of the marquis and his wife in
   Michu whistled in a way that made his hearers tremble.               his capacity as president of the club of Jacobins at Arcis.
The rapidity with which his son ran up to him proved plainly            Michu, the orphan son of a peasant, showered with benefac-
enough the despotic power of the bailiff of Gondreville. Since          tions by the marquise, who brought him up in her own home
1789, but more especially since 1793, Michu had been well-              and gave him his place as keeper, was regarded as a Brutus by
nigh master of the property. The terror he inspired in his              excited demagogues; but the people of the neighborhood

                                                                    8
                                                            Balzac
ceased to recognize him after this act of base ingratitude.          Terror lasted, Michu, still bailiff of Gondreville, a devoted
The purchaser of the estate was a man from Arcis named               patriot, son-in-law of the president of the revolutionary tri-
Marion, grandson of a former bailiff in the Simeuse family.          bunal of Troyes and flattered by Malin, representative from
This man, a lawyer before and after the Revolution, was afraid       the department of the Aube, was the object of a certain sort
of the keeper; he made him his bailiff with a salary of three        of respect. But when the Mountain was overthrown and af-
thousand francs, and gave him an interest in the sales of tim-       ter his father-in-law committed suicide, he found himself a
ber; Michu, who was thought to have some ten thousand                scape-goat; everybody hastened to accuse him, in common
francs of his own laid by, married the daughter of a tanner at       with his father-in-law, of acts to which, so far as he was con-
Troyes, an apostle of the Revolution in that town, where he          cerned, he was a total stranger. The bailiff resented the injus-
was president of the revolutionary tribunal. This tanner, a          tice of the community; he stiffened his back and took an
man of profound convictions, who resembled Saint-Just as             attitude of hostility. He talked boldly. But after the 18th
to character, was afterwards mixed up in Baboeuf ’s conspiracy       Brumaire he maintained an unbroken silence, the philoso-
and killed himself to escape execution. Marthe was the hand-         phy of the strong; he struggled no longer against public opin-
somest girl in Troyes. In spite of her shrinking modesty she         ion, and contented himself with attending to his own af-
had been forced by her formidable father to play the part of         fairs,—wise conduct, which led his neighbors to pronounce
Goddess of Liberty in some republican ceremony.                      him sly, for he owned, it was said, a fortune of not less than
  The new proprietor came only three times to Gondreville            a hundred thousand francs in landed property. In the first
in the course of seven years. His grandfather had been bailiff       place, he spent nothing; next, this property was legitimately
of the estate under the Simeuse family, and all Arcis took for       acquired, partly from the inheritance of his father-in-law’s
granted that the citizen Marion was the secret representative        estate, and partly from the savings of six-thousand francs a
of the present Marquis and his twin brother. As long as the          year, the salary he derived from his place with its profits and

                                                                 9
                                                      An Historical Mystery
emoluments. He had been bailiff of Gondreville for the last              was a cousin of the Simeuse brothers; she had only one farm
twelve years and every one had estimated the probable amount             left for her maintenance and was now residing at her cha-
of his savings, so that when, after the Consulate was proclaimed,        teau of Cinq-Cygne. She lived for her cousins the twins, with
he bought a farm for fifty thousand francs, the suspicions at-           whom she had played in childhood at Troyes and at
taching to his former opinions lessened, and the community               Gondreville. Her only brother, Jules de Cinq-Cygne, who
of Arcis gave him credit for intending to recover himself in             emigrated before the twins, died at Mayence, but by a privi-
public estimation. Unfortunately, at the very moment when                lege which was somewhat rare and will be mentioned later,
public opinion was condoning his past a foolish affair,                  the name of Cinq-Cygne was not to perish through lack of
envenomed by the gossip of the country-side, revived the la-             male heirs.
tent and very general belief in the ferocity of his character.             This affair between Michu and the farmer made a great
  One evening, coming away from Troyes in company with                   noise in the arrondissement and darkened the already mys-
several peasants, among whom was the farmer at Cinq-Cygne,               terious shadows which seemed to veil him. Nor was it the
he let fall a paper on the main road; the farmer, who was                only circumstance which made him feared. A few months
walking behind him, stooped and picked it up. Michu turned               after this scene the citizen Marion, present owner of the
round, saw the paper in the man’s hands, pulled a pistol from            Gondreville estate, came to inspect it with the citizen Malin.
his belt and threatened the farmer (who knew how to read)                Rumor said that Marion was about to sell the property to his
to blow his brains out if he opened the paper. Michu’s action            companion, who had profited by political events and had
was so sudden and violent, the tone of his voice so alarming,            just been appointed on the Council of State by the First
his eyes blazed so savagely, that the men about him turned               Consul, in return for his services on the 18th Brumaire. The
cold with fear. The farmer of Cinq-Cygne was already his                 shrewd heads of the little town of Arcis now perceived that
enemy. Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, the man’s employer,                   Marion had been the agent of Malin in the purchase of the

                                                                    10
                                                              Balzac
property, and not of the brothers Simeuse, as was first sup-            ally made by Malin were for the costs of registration. Grevin,
posed. The all-powerful Councillor of State was the most                a seminary comrade of Malin, assisted the transaction, and
important personage in Arcis. He had obtained for one of                the Councillor rewarded his help with the office of notary at
his political friends the prefecture of Troyes, and for a farmer        Arcis. When the news of the sale reached the pavilion, brought
at Gondreville the exemption of his son from the draft; in              there by a farmer whose farm, at Grouage, was situated be-
fact, he had done services to many. Consequently, the sale              tween the forest and the park on the left of the noble avenue,
met with no opposition in the neighborhood where Malin                  Michu turned pale and left the house. He lay in wait for
then reigned, and where he still reigns supreme.                        Marion, and finally met him alone in one of the shrubberies
  The Empire was just dawning. Those who in these days                  of the park.
read the histories of the French Revolution can form no con-              “Is monsieur about to sell Gondreville?” asked the bailiff.
ception of the vast spaces which public thought traversed                 “Yes, Michu, yes. You will have a man of powerful influ-
between events which now seem to have been so near to-                  ence for your master. He is the friend of the First Consul,
gether. The strong need of peace and tranquillity which ev-             and very intimate with all the ministers; he will protect you.”
ery one felt after the violent tumults of the Revolution                  “Then you were holding the estate for him?”
brought about a complete forgetfulness of important ante-                 “I don’t say that,” replied Marion. “At the time I bought it
rior facts. History matured rapidly under the advance of new            I was looking for a place to put my money, and I invested in
and eager interests. No one, therefore, except Michu, looked            national property as the best security. But it doesn’t suit me
into the past of this affair, which the community accepted as           to keep an estate once belonging to a family in which my
a simple matter. Marion, who had bought Gondreville for                 father was—”
six hundred thousand francs in assignats, sold it for the value           “—a servant,” said Michu, violently. “But you shall not
of a couple of million in coin; but the only payments actu-             sell it! I want it; and I can pay for it.”

                                                                   11
                                                   An Historical Mystery
  “You?”                                                              sible for Marion to avoid delivering the property to the man
  “Yes, I; seriously, in good gold,—eight hundred thousand            who had been the real purchaser, and Michu did not seem
francs.”                                                              likely to admit any such reason. Moreover, this service done
  “Eight hundred thousand francs!” exclaimed Marion.                  by Marion to Malin was to be, and in fact ended by being,
“Where did you get them?”                                             the origin of the former’s political fortune, and also that of
  “That’s none of your business,” replied Michu; then, soft-          his brother. In 1806 Malin had him appointed chief justice
ening his tone, he added in a low voice: “My father-in-law            of an imperial court, and after the creation of tax-collectors
saved the lives of many persons.”                                     his brother obtained the post of receiver-general for the de-
  “You are too late, Michu; the sale is made.”                        partment of the Aube. The State Councillor told Marion to
  “You must put it off, monsieur!” cried the bailiff, seizing         stay in Paris, and he warned the minister of police, who gave
his master by the hand which he held as in a vice. “I am              orders that Michu should be secretly watched. Not wishing
hated, but I choose to be rich and powerful, and I must have          to push the man to extremes, Malin kept him on as bailiff,
Gondreville. Listen to me; I don’t cling to life; sell me that        under the iron rule of Grevin the notary of Arcis.
place or I’ll blow your brains out!—”                                   From that moment Michu became more absorbed and taci-
  “But do give me time to get off my bargain with Malin;              turn than ever, and obtained the reputation of a man who
he’s troublesome to deal with.”                                       was capable of committing a crime. Malin, the Councillor
  “I’ll give you twenty-four hours. If you say a word about           of State (a function which the First Consul raised to the level
this matter I’ll chop your head off as I would chop a turnip.”        of a ministry), and a maker of the Code, played a great part
  Marion and Malin left the chateau in the course of the              in Paris, where he bought one of the finest mansions in the
night. Marion was frightened; he told Malin of the meeting            Faubuorg Saint-Germain after marrying the only daughter
and begged him to keep an eye on the bailiff. It was impos-           of a rich contractor named Sibuelle. He never came to

                                                                 12
                                                              Balzac
Gondreville; leaving all matters concerning the property to             ing, and she feared him too much to be able to judge him.
the management of Grevin, the Arcis notary. After all, what             Nevertheless, she knew that he loved her, and at the bottom of
had he to fear?—he, a former representative of the Aube,                her heart lay the truest affection for this awe-inspiring man;
and president of a club of Jacobins. And yet, the unfavorable           she had never known him to do anything that was not just;
opinion of Michu held by the lower classes was shared by                never did he say a brutal word, to her at least; in fact, he en-
the bourgeoisie, and Marion, Grevin, and Malin, without                 deavored to forestall her every wish. The poor pariah, believ-
giving any reason or compromising themselves on the sub-                ing himself disagreeable to his wife, spent most of his time out
ject, showed that they regarded him as an extremely danger-             of doors. Marthe and Michu, distrustful of each other, lived
ous man. The authorities, who were under instructions from              in what is called in these days an “armed peace.” Marthe, who
the minister of police to watch the bailiff, did not of course          saw no one, suffered keenly from the ostracism which for the
lessen this belief. The neighborhood wondered that he kept              last seven years had surrounded her as the daughter of a revo-
his place, but supposed it was in consequence of the terror             lutionary butcher, and the wife of a so-called traitor. More
he inspired. It is easy now, after these explanations, to un-           than once she had overheard the laborers of the adjoining farm
derstand the anxiety and sadness expressed in the face of               (held by a man named Beauvisage, greatly attached to the
Michu’s wife.                                                           Simeuse family) say as they passed the pavilion, “That’s where
  In the first place, Marthe had been piously brought up by             Judas lives!” The singular resemblance between the bailiff’s
her mother. Both, being good Catholics, had suffered much               head and that of the thirteenth apostle, which his conduct
from the opinions and behavior of the tanner. Marthe could              appeared to carry out, won him that odious nickname through-
never think without a blush of having marched through the               out the neighborhood. It was this distress of mind, added to
street of Troyes in the garb of a goddess. Her father had forced        vague but constant fears for the future, which gave Marthe
her to marry Michu, whose bad reputation was then increas-              her thoughtful and subdued air. Nothing saddens so deeply as

                                                                   13
                                                     An Historical Mystery
unmerited degradation from which there seems no escape. A               Bellache people, or even to Marianne who loves us, you will
painter could have made a fine picture of this family of pari-          kill your father. Never tattle again, and I will forgive what you
ahs in the bosom of their pretty nook in Champagne, where               said yesterday.” The child began to cry. “Don’t cry; but when
the landscape is generally sad.                                         any one questions you, say, as the peasants do, ‘I don’t know.’
  “Francois!” called the bailiff, to hasten his son.                    There are persons roaming about whom I distrust. Run along!
  Francois Michu, a child of ten, played in the park and                As for you two,” he added, turning to the women, “you have
forest, and levied his little tithes like a master; he ate the          heard what I said. Keep a close mouth, both of you.”
fruits; he chased the game; he at least had neither cares nor             “Husband, what are you going to do?”
troubles. Of all the family, Francois alone was happy in a                Michu, who was carefully measuring a charge of powder,
home thus isolated from the neighborhood by its position                poured it into the barrel of his gun, rested the weapon against
between the park and the forest, and by the still greater moral         the parapet and said to Marthe:—
solitude of universal repulsion.                                          “No one knows I own that gun. Stand in front of it.”
  “Pick up these things,” said his father, pointing to the para-          Couraut, who had sprung to his feet, was barking furi-
pet, “and put them away. Look at me! You love your father               ously.
and your mother, don’t you?” The child flung himself on his               “Good, intelligent fellow!” cried Michu. “I am certain there
father as if to kiss him, but Michu made a movement to shift            are spies about—”
the gun and pushed him back. “Very good. You have some-                   Man and beast feel a spy. Couraut and Michu, who seemed
times chattered about things that are done here,” continued             to have one and the same soul, lived together as the Arab
the father, fixing his eyes, dangerous as those of a wild-cat,          and his horse in the desert. The bailiff knew the modula-
on the boy. “Now remember this; if you tell the least little            tions of the dog’s voice, just as the dog read his master’s mean-
thing that happens here to Gaucher, or to the Grouage and               ing in his eyes, or felt it exhaling in the air from his body.

                                                                   14
                                                           Balzac
  “What do you say to that?” said Michu, in a low voice,             blue. The coat, cinnamon-colored, was a treasure to carica-
calling his wife’s attention to two strangers who appeared in        turists by reason of its long tails, which, when seen from
a by-path making for the rond-point.                                 behind, bore so perfect a resemblance to a cod that the name
  “What can it mean?” cried the old mother. “They are Pari-          of that fish was given to them. The fashion of codfish tails
sians.”                                                              lasted ten years; almost the whole period of the empire of
  “Here they come!” said Michu. “Hide my gun,” he whis-              Napoleon. The cravat, loosely fastened, and with numerous
pered to his wife.                                                   small folds, allowed the wearer to bury his face in it up to the
  The two men who now crossed the wide open space of the             nostrils. His pimpled skin, his long, thick, brick-dust col-
rond-point were typical enough for a painter. One, who ap-           ored nose, his high cheek-bones, his mouth, lacking half its
peared to be the subaltern, wore top-boots, turned down              teeth but greedy for all that and menacing, his ears adorned
rather low, showing well-made calves, and colored silk stock-        with huge gold rings, his low forehead,—all these personal
ings of doubtful cleanliness. The breeches, of ribbed cloth,         details, which might have seemed grotesque in many men,
apricot color with metal buttons, were too large; they were          were rendered terrible in him by two small eyes set in his
baggy about the body, and the lines of their creases seemed          head like those of a pig, expressive of insatiable covetous-
to indicate a sedentary man. A marseilles waistcoat, over-           ness, and of insolent, half-jovial cruelty. These ferreting and
loaded with embroidery, open, and held together by one               perspicacious blue eyes, glassy and glacial, might be taken
button only just above the stomach, gave to the wearer a             for the model of that famous Eye, the formidable emblem of
dissipated look,—all the more so, because his jet black hair,        the police, invented during the Revolution. Black silk gloves
in corkscrew curls, hid his forehead and hung down his               were on his hands and he carried a switch. He was certainly
cheeks. Two steel watch-chains were festooned upon his               some official personage, for he showed in his bearing, in his
breeches. The shirt was adorned with a cameo in white and            way of taking snuff and ramming it into his nose, the bu-

                                                                15
                                                    An Historical Mystery
reaucratic importance of an office subordinate, one who signs          whole a good fellow compared with this younger man, who
for his superiors and acquires a passing sovereignty by en-            was slashing the air with a cane, the top of which, made of
forcing their orders.                                                  gold, glittered in the sunshine. The first man might have cut
  The other man, whose dress was in the same style, but                off a head with his own hand, but the second was capable of
elegant and elegantly put on and careful in its smallest de-           entangling innocence, virtue, and beauty in the nets of cal-
tail, wore boots a la Suwaroff which came high upon the leg            umny and intrigue, and then poisoning them or drowning
above a pair of tight trousers, and creaked as he walked. Above        them. The rubicund stranger would have comforted his vic-
his coat he wore a spencer, an aristocratic garment adopted            tim with a jest; the other was incapable of a smile. The first
by the Clichiens and the young bloods of Paris, which sur-             was forty-five years old, and he loved, undoubtedly, both
vived both the Clichiens and the fashionable youths. In those          women and good cheer. Such men have passions which keep
days fashions sometimes lasted longer than parties,—a symp-            them slaves to their calling. But the young man was plainly
tom of anarchy which the year of our Lord 1830 has again               without passions and without vices. If he was a spy he be-
presented to us. This accomplished dandy seemed to be thirty           longed to diplomacy, and did such work from a pure love of
years of age. His manners were those of good society; he               art. He conceived, the other executed; he was the idea, the
wore jewels of value; the collar of his shirt came to the tops         other was the form.
of his ears. His conceited and even impertinent air betrayed              “This must be Gondreville, is it not, my good woman?”
a consciousness of hidden superiority. His pallid face seemed          said the young man.
bloodless, his thin flat nose had the sardonic expression which           “We don’t say ‘my good woman’ here,” said Michu. “We are
we see in a death’s head, and his green eyes were inscrutable;         still simple enough to say ‘citizen’ and ‘citizeness’ in these parts.”
their glance was discreet in meaning just as the thin closed              “Ah!” exclaimed the young man, in a natural way, and with-
mouth was discreet in words. The first man seemed on the               out seeming at all annoyed.

                                                                  16
                                                            Balzac
  Players of ecarte often have a sense of inward disaster when           They both turned back with a sense of distrust which the
some unknown person sits down at the same table with them,            bailiff understood at once in spite of their impassible faces.
whose manners, look, voice, and method of shuffling the               Marthe let them look at the gun, to the tune of Couraut’s bark;
cards, all, to their fancy, foretell defeat. The instant Michu        she was so convinced that her husband was meditating some
looked at the young man he felt an inward and prophetic               evil deed that she was thankful for the curiosity of the strangers.
collapse. He was struck by a fatal presentiment; he had a                Michu flung a look at his wife which made her tremble; he
sudden confused foreboding of the scaffold. A voice told him          took the gun and began to load it, accepting quietly the fatal
that that dandy would destroy him, although there was noth-           ill-luck of this encounter and the discovery of the weapon.
ing whatever in common between them. For this reason his              He seemed no longer to care for life, and his wife fathomed
answer was rude; he was and he wished to be forbidding.               his inward feeling.
  “Don’t you belong to the Councillor of State, Malin?” said             “So you have wolves in these parts?” said the young man,
the younger man.                                                      watching him.
  “I am my own master,” answered Malin.                                  “There are always wolves where there are sheep. You are in
  “Mesdames,” said the young man, assuming a most polite              Champagne, and there’s a forest; we have wild-boars, large
air, “are we not at Gondreville? We are expected there by             and small game both, a little of everything,” replied Michu,
Monsieur Malin.”                                                      in a truculent manner.
  “There’s the park,” said Michu, pointing to the open gate.             “I’ll bet, Corentin,” said the elder of the two men, after
  “Why are you hiding that gun, my fine girl?” said the elder,        exchanging a glance with his companion, “that this is my
catching sight of the carbine as he passed through the gate.          friend Michu—”
  “You never let a chance escape you, even in the country!”              “We never kept pigs together that I know of,” said the
cried his companion.                                                  bailiff.

                                                                 17
                                                    An Historical Mystery
  “No, but we both presided over Jacobins, citizen,” replied           teau by the wood path, so that no one sees them; they don’t
the old cynic,—”you at Arcis, I elsewhere. I see you’ve kept           follow the beaten tracks. Come here,” he added, as the strang-
your Carmagnole civility, but it’s no longer in fashion, my            ers turned to walk away, talking together as they did so in a
good fellow.”                                                          low voice. Michu caught the boy in his arms, and kissed him
  “The park strikes me as rather large; we might lose our              almost solemnly with an expression which confirmed his
way. If you are really the bailiff show us the path to the cha-        wife’s fears; cold chills ran down her back; she glanced at her
teau,” said Corentin, in a peremptory tone.                            mother with haggard eyes, for she could not weep.
  Michu whistled to his son and continued to load his gun.               “Go,” said Michu; and he watched the boy until he was
Corentin looked at Marthe with indifference, while his com-            entirely out of sight. Couraut was barking on the other side
panion seemed charmed by her; but the young man noticed                of the road in the direction of Grouage. “Oh, that’s Violette,”
the signs of her inward distress, which escaped the old liber-         remarked Michu. “This is the third time that old fellow has
tine, who had, however, noticed and feared the gun. The                passed here to-day. What’s in the wind? Hush, Couraut!”
natures of the two men were disclosed in this trifling yet               A few moments later the trot of a pony was heard approach-
important circumstance.                                                ing.
  “I’ve an appointment the other side of the forest,” said the
bailiff. “I can’t go with you, but my son here will take you to
the chateau. How did you get to Gondreville? did you come
by Cinq-Cygne?”
  “We had, like yourself, business in the forest,” said
Corentin, without apparent sarcasm.
  “Francois,” cried Michu, “take these gentlemen to the cha-

                                                                  18
                                                              Balzac
                      CHAPTER II                                        surgeon had pried them open with a scalpel, and the innu-
                                                                        merable wrinkles of his face and forehead hindered the play
            A CRIME RELINQUISHED                                        of features which were expressive only in their outlines. Those
                                                                        hard, fixed lines seemed menacing, in spite of the humility
VIOLETTE, mounted on one of those little nags which the                 which country-folks assume and beneath which they con-
farmers in the neighborhood of Paris use so much, soon ap-              ceal their emotions and schemes, as savages and Easterns hide
peared, wearing a round hat with a broad brim, beneath                  theirs behind an imperturbable gravity. First a mere laborer,
which his wood-colored face, deeply wrinkled, appeared in               then the farmer of Grouage through a long course of persis-
shadow. His gray eyes, mischievous and lively, concealed in             tent ill-doing, he continued his evil practices after conquering
a measure the treachery of his nature. His skinny legs, cov-            a position which surpassed his early hopes. He wished harm
ered with gaiters of white linen which came to the knee,                to all men and wished it vehemently. When he could assist in
hung rather than rested in the stirrups, seemingly held in              doing harm he did it eagerly. He was openly envious; but, no
place by the weight of his hob-nailed shoes. Above his jacket           matter how malignant he might be, he kept within the limits
of blue cloth he wore a cloak of some coarse woollen stuff              of the law,—neither beyond it nor behind it, like a parliamen-
woven in black and white stripes. His gray hair fell in curls           tary opposition. He believed his prosperity depended on the
behind his ears. This dress, the gray horse with its short legs,        ruin of others, and that whoever was above him was an enemy
the manner in which Violette sat him, stomach projecting                against whom all weapons were good. A character like this is
and shoulders thrown back, the big chapped hands which                  very common among the peasantry.
held the shabby bridle, all depicted him plainly as the grasp-            Violette’s present business was to obtain from Malin an
ing, ambitious peasant who desires to own land and buys it              extension of the lease of his farm, which had only six years
at any price. His mouth, with its bluish lips parted as if a            longer to run. Jealous of the bailiff ’s means, he watched him

                                                                   19
                                                     An Historical Mystery
narrowly. The neighbors reproached him for his intimacy                   “It grew in a field of mine which bears guns,” replied Michu.
with “Judas”; but the sly old farmer, wishing to obtain a twelve        “Look! this is how I sow them.”
years’ lease, was really lying in wait for an opportunity to              The bailiff took aim at a viper thirty feet away and cut it in
serve either the government or Malin, who distrusted Michu.             two.
Violette, by the help of the game-keeper of Gondreville and               “Have you got that bandit’s weapon to protect your mas-
others belonging to the estate, kept Malin informed of all              ter?” said Violette. “Perhaps he gave it to you.”
Michu’s actions. Malin had endeavored, fruitlessly, to win                “He came from Paris expressly to bring it to me,” replied
over Marianne, the Michus’ servant-woman; but Violette and              Michu.
his satellites heard everything from Gaucher,—a lad on whose              “People are talking all round the neighborhood of this jour-
fidelity Michu relied, but who betrayed him for cast-off cloth-         ney of his; some say he is in disgrace and has to retire from
ing, waistcoats, buckles, cotton socks and sugar-plums. The             office; others that he wants to see things for himself down
boy had no suspicion of the importance of his gossip. Violette          here. But anyway, why does he come, like the First Consul,
in his reports blackened all Michu’s actions and gave them a            without giving warning? Did you know he was coming?”
criminal aspect by absurd suggestions,—unknown, of course,                “I am not on such terms with him as to be in his confi-
to the bailiff, who was aware, however, of the base part played         dence.”
by the farmer, and took delight in mystifying him.                        “Then you have not seen him?”
  “You must have a deal of business at Bellache to be here                “I did not know he was here till I got back from my rounds
again,” said Michu.                                                     in the forest,” said Michu, reloading his gun.
  “Again! is that meant as a reproach, Monsieur Michu?—                   “He has sent to Arcis for Monsieur Grevin,” said Violette;
Hey! I did not know you had that gun. You are not going to              “they are scheming something.”
whistle for the sparrows on that pipe, I suppose—”                        “If you are going round by Cinq-Cygne, take me up be-

                                                                   20
                                                             Balzac
hind you,” said the bailiff. “I’m going there.”                    the hay-loft, look everywhere for him.”
  Violette was too timid to have a man of Michu’s strength           Marthe left the room to obey the order. When she returned
on his crupper, and he spurred his beast. Judas slung his gun      she found Michu on his knees, praying.
over his shoulder and walked rapidly up the avenue.                  “What is the matter?” she said, frightened.
  “Who can it be that Michu is angry with?” said Marthe to           The bailiff took his wife round the waist and drew her to
her mother.                                                        him, saying in a voice of deep feeling: “If we never see each
  “Ever since he heard of Monsieur Malin’s arrival he has          other again remember, my poor wife, that I loved you well.
been gloomy,” replied the old woman. “But it is getting damp       Follow minutely the instructions which you will find in a
here, let us go in.”                                               letter buried at the foot of the larch in that copse. It is en-
  After the two women had settled themselves in the chim-          closed in a tin tube. Do not touch it until after my death.
ney corner they heard Couraut’s bark.                              And remember, Marthe, whatever happens to me, that in
  “There’s my husband returning!” cried Marthe.                    spite of man’s injustice, my arm has been the instrument of
  Michu passed up the stairs; his wife, uneasy, followed him       the justice of God.”
to their bedroom.                                                    Marthe, who turned pale by degrees, became white as her
  “See if any one is about,” he said to her, in a voice of some    own linen; she looked at her husband with fixed eyes wid-
emotion.                                                           ened by fear; she tried to speak, but her throat was dry. Michu
  “No one,” she replied. “Marianne is in the field with the        disappeared like a shadow, having tied Couraut to the foot
cow, and Gaucher—”                                                 of his bed where the dog, after the manner of all dogs, howled
  “Where is Gaucher?” he asked.                                    in despair.
  “I don’t know.”                                                    Michu’s anger against Monsieur Marion had serious
  “I distrust that little scamp. Go up in the garret, look in      grounds, but it was now concentrated on another man, far

                                                              21
                                                   An Historical Mystery
more criminal in his eyes,—on Malin, whose secrets were               to compromise them, had confided them, a few hours be-
known to the bailiff, he being in a better position than oth-         fore the storm broke, to their aunt, the Comtesse de Cinq-
ers to understand the conduct of the State Councillor. Michu’s        Cygne. Two servants attached to the Simeuse family accom-
father-in-law had had, politically speaking, the confidence           panied the young men to her house. The old marquis, who
of the former representative to the Convention, through               was anxious that his name should not die out, requested that
Grevin.                                                               what was happening might be concealed from his sons, even
  Perhaps it would be well here to relate the circumstances           in the event of dire disaster. Laurence, the only daughter of
which brought the Simeuse and the Cinq-Cygne families                 the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne, was then twelve years of age;
into connection with Malin,—circumstances which weighed               her cousins both loved her and she loved them equally. Like
heavily on the fate of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne’s twin              other twins the Simeuse brothers were so alike that for a
cousins, but still more heavily on that of Marthe and Michu.          long while their mother dressed them in different colors to
  The Cinq-Cygne mansion at Troyes stands opposite to that            know them apart. The first comer, the eldest, was named
of Simeuse. When the populace, incited by minds that were             Paul-Marie, the other Marie-Paul. Laurence de Cinq-Cygne,
as shrewd as they were cautious, pillaged the hotel Simeuse,          to whom their danger was revealed, played her woman’s part
discovered the marquis and marchioness, who were accused              well though still a mere child. She coaxed and petted her
of corresponding with the nation’s enemies, and delivered             cousins and kept them occupied until the very moment when
them to the national guards who took them to prison, the              the populace surrounded the Cinq-Cygne mansion. The two
crowd shouted, “Now for the Cinq-Cygnes!” To their minds              brothers then knew their danger for the first time, and looked
the Cinq-Cygnes were as guilty as other aristocrats. The brave        at each other. Their resolution was instantly taken; they armed
and worthy Monsieur de Simeuse in the endeavor to save his            their own servants and those of the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne,
two sons, then eighteen years of age, whose courage was likely        barricaded the doors, and stood guard at the windows, after

                                                                 22
                                                           Balzac
closing the wooden blinds, with the five men-servants and            pected Malin of desiring the ruin of their family, and of caus-
the Abbe d’Hauteserre, a relative of the Cinq-Cygnes. These          ing the arrest of their parents, and the suspicion soon be-
eight courageous champions poured a deadly fire into the             came a certainty. They posted themselves beneath the porte-
crowd. Every shot killed or wounded an assailant. Laurence,          cochere, gun in hand, intending to kill Malin as soon as he
instead of wringing her hands, loaded the guns with extraor-         made his appearance; but the countess lost her head; she
dinary coolness, and passed the balls and powder to those            imagined her house in ashes and her daughter assassinated,
who needed them. The Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne was on                   and she blamed the young men for their heroic defence and
her knees.                                                           compelled them to desist. It was Laurence who opened the
  “What are you doing, mother?” said Laurence.                       door slightly when Malin summoned the household to ad-
  “I am praying,” she answered, “for them and for you.”              mit him. Seeing her, the representative relied upon the awe
  Sublime words,—said also by the mother of Godoy, prince            he expected to inspire in a mere child, and he entered the
of the Peace, in Spain, under similar circumstances.                 house. To his first words of inquiry as to why the family were
  In a moment eleven persons were killed and lying on the            making such a resistance, the girl replied: “If you really de-
ground among a number of wounded. Such results either                sire to give liberty to France how is it that you do not protect
cool or excite a populace; either it grows savage at the work        us in our homes? They are trying to tear down this house,
or discontinues it. On the present occasion those in advance         monsieur, to murder us, and you say we have no right to
recoiled; but the crowd behind them were there to kill and           oppose force to force!”
rob, and when they saw their own dead, they cried out:                  Malin stood rooted to the ground.
“Murder! Murder! Revenge!” The wiser heads went in search               “You, the son of a mason employed by the Grand Marquis
of the representative to the Convention, Malin. The twins,           to build his castle!” exclaimed Marie-Paul, “you have let them
by this time aware of the disastrous events of the day, sus-         drag our father to prison—you have believed calumnies!”

                                                                23
                                                      An Historical Mystery
  “He shall be released at once,” said Malin, who thought                chateau, the park and gardens, and one farm called that of
himself lost when he saw each youth clutch his weapon con-               Cinq-Cygne. Malin instructed the appraisers that Laurence
vulsively.                                                               had no rights beyond her legal share,—the nation taking
  “You owe your life to that promise,” said Marie-Paul, sol-             possession of all that belonged to her brother, who had emi-
emnly. “If it is not fulfilled to-night we shall find you again.”        grated and, above all, had borne arms against the Republic.
  “As to that howling populace,” said Laurence, “If you do                 The evening after this terrible tumult, Laurence so entreated
not send them away, the next blood will be yours. Now, Mon-              her cousins to leave the country, fearing treachery on the
sieur Malin, leave this house!”                                          part of Malin, or some trap into which they might fall, that
  The Conventionalist did leave it, and he harangued the                 they took horse that night and gained the Prussian outposts.
crowd, dwelling on the sacred rights of the domestic hearth,             They had scarcely reached the forest of Gondreville before
the habeas corpus and the English “home.” He told them                   the hotel Cinq-Cygne was surrounded; Malin came himself
that the law and the people were sovereigns, that the law was            to arrest the heirs of the house of Simeuse. He dared not lay
the people, and that the people could only act through the               hands on the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne, who was in bed with
law, and that power was vested in the law. The particular law            a nervous fever, nor on Laurence, a child of twelve. The ser-
of personal necessity made him eloquent, and he managed                  vants, fearing the severity of the Republic, had disappeared.
to disperse the crowd. But he never forgot the contemptu-                The next day the news of the resistance of the brothers and
ous expression of the two brothers, nor the “Leave this house!”          their flight to Prussia was known to the neighborhood. A
of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. Therefore, when it was a                  crowd of three thousand persons assembled before the hotel
question of selling the estates of the Comte de Cinq-Cygne,              de Cinq-Cygne, which was demolished with incredible ra-
Laurence’s brother, as national property, the sale was rigor-            pidity. Madame de Cinq-Cygne, carried to the hotel Simeuse,
ously made. The agents left nothing for Laurence but the                 died there from the effects of the fever aggravated by terror.

                                                                    24
                                                                Balzac
   Michu did not appear in the political arena until after these          eyes of Bonaparte; whereas his journey, far from concerning
events, for the marquis and his wife remained in prison over              the interests of the State, related to his own interests only.
five months. During this time Malin was away on a mission.                On this particular day, as Michu was watching the park and
But when Monsieur Marion sold Gondreville to the Coun-                    expecting, after the manner of a red Indian, a propitious
cillor of State, Michu understood the latter’s game,—or rather,           moment for his vengeance, the astute Malin, accustomed to
he thought he did; for Malin was, like Fouche, one of those               turn all events to his own profit, was leading his friend Grevin
personages who are of such depth in all their different as-               to a little field in the English garden, a lonely spot in the
pects that they are impenetrable when they play a part, and               park, favorable for a secret conference. There, standing in
are never understood until long after their drama is ended.               the centre of the grass plot and speaking low, the friends
   In all the chief circumstances of Malin’s life he had never            were at too great a distance to be overheard if any one were
failed to consult his faithful friend Grevin, the notary of Arcis,        lurking near enough to listen to them; they were also sure of
whose judgment on men and things was, at a distance, clear-               time to change the conversation if others unwarily ap-
cut and precise. This faculty is the wisdom and makes the                 proached.
strength of second-rate men. Now, in November, 1803, a                      “Why couldn’t we have stayed in a room in the chateau?”
combination of events (already related in the “Depute                     asked Grevin.
d’Arcis”) made matters so serious for the Councillor of State               “Didn’t you take notice of those two men whom the pre-
that a letter might have compromised the two friends. Malin,              fect of police has sent here to me?”
who hoped to be appointed senator, was afraid to offer his                  Though Fouche made himself in the matter of the Pichegru,
explanations in Paris. He came to Gondreville, giving the                 Georges, Moreau, and Polignac conspiracy the soul of the
First Consul only one of the reasons that made him wish to                Consular cabinet, he did not at this time control the minis-
be there; that reason gave him an appearance of zeal in the               try of police, but was merely a councillor of State like Malin.

                                                                     25
                                                    An Historical Mystery
  “Those men,” continued Malin, “are Fouche’s two arms.                  The words made an impression on the councillor.
One, that dandy Corentin, whose face is like a glass of lem-             “Since when?” asked Grevin, after a pause.
onade, vinegar on his lips and verjuice in his eyes, put an              “Since the Consulate for life.”
end to the insurrection at the West in the year VII. in less             “I hope there’s no proof of it?”
than fifteen days. The other is a disciple of Lenoir; he is the          “Not that!” said Malin, clicking his thumb-nail against his
only one who preserves the great traditions of the police. I           teeth.
had asked for an agent of no great account, backed by some               In few words the Councillor of State gave a clear and suc-
official personage, and they send me those past-masters of             cinct account of the critical position in which Bonaparte was
the business! Ah, Grevin, Fouche wants to pry into my game.            about to hold England, by threatening her with invasion from
That’s why I left those fellows dining at the chateau; they            the camp at Boulogne; he explained to Grevin the bearings
may look into everything for all I care; they won’t find Louis         of that project, which was unobserved by France and Eu-
XVIII. nor any sign of him.”                                           rope but suspected by Pitt; also the critical position in which
  “But see here, my dear fellow, what game are you play-               England was about to put Bonaparte. A powerful coalition,
ing?” cried Grevin.                                                    Prussia, Austria, and Russia, paid by English gold, was
  “Ha, my friend, a double game is a dangerous one, but                pledged to furnish seven hundred thousand men under arms.
this, taking Fouche into account, is a triple one. He may              At the same time a formidable conspiracy was throwing a
have nosed the fact that I am in the secrets of the house of           network over the whole of France, including among its mem-
Bourbon.”                                                              bers montagnards, chouans, royalists, and their princes.
  “You?”                                                                 “Louis XVIII. held that as long as there were three Con-
  “I,” replied Malin.                                                  suls anarchy was certain, and that he could at some oppor-
  “Have you forgotten Favras?”                                         tune moment take his revenge for the 13th Vendemiaire and

                                                                  26
                                                                Balzac
the 18th Fructidor,” said Malin, “but the Consulate for life              the Republic, whose product he was. He murdered his mother
has unmasked Bonaparte’s intentions—he will soon be em-                   on that occasion, but these royalists only seek to recover what
peror. The late sub-lieutenant means to create a dynasty! This            was theirs. I can understand that the princes and their adher-
time his life is in actual danger; and the plot is far better laid        ents, seeing the lists of the emigres closed, mortgages suppressed,
than that of the Rue Saint-Nicaise. Pichegru, Georges,                    the Catholic faith restored, anti-revolutionary decrees accu-
Moreau, the Duc d’Enghien, Polignac and Riviere, the two                  mulating, should begin to see that their return is becoming
friends of the Comte d’Artois are in it.”                                 difficult, not to say impossible. Bonaparte being the sole ob-
   “What an amalgamation!” cried Grevin.                                  stacle now in their way, they want to get rid of him—nothing
   “France is being silently invaded; no stone is left unturned;          simpler. Conspirators if defeated are brigands, if successful,
the thing will be carried with a rush. A hundred picked men,              heroes; and your perplexity seems to me very natural.”
commanded by Georges, are to attack the Consular guard                      “The matter now is,” said Malin, “to make Bonaparte fling
and the Consul hand to hand.”                                             the head of the Duc d’Enghien at the Bourbons, just as the
   “Well then, denounce them.”                                            Convention flung the head of Louis XVI. at the kings, so as to
   “For the last two months the Consul, his minister of po-               commit him as fully as we are to the Revolution; or else, we
lice, the prefect and Fouche, hold some of the clues of this              must upset the idol of the French people and their future
vast conspiracy; but they don’t know its full extent, and at              emperor, and seat the true throne upon his ruins. I am at the
this particular moment they are leaving nearly all the con-               mercy of some event, some fortunate pistol-shot, some infer-
spirators free, so as to discover more about it.”                         nal machine which does its work. Even I don’t know the whole
   “As to rights,” said the notary, “the Bourbons have much               conspiracy; they don’t tell me all; but they have asked me to
more right to conceive, plan, and execute a scheme against                call the Council of State at the critical moment and direct its
Bonaparte, than Bonaparte had on the 18th Brumaire against                action towards the restoration of the Bourbons.”

                                                                     27
                                                   An Historical Mystery
  “Wait,” said the notary.                                              “Ah! Now I understand your bewilderment, and it is for
  “Impossible! I am compelled to make my decision at once.”           me to see clear in this political darkness and find a way out
  “Why?”                                                              for you. Now, it is quite impossible to foresee what events
  “Well, the Simeuse brothers are in the conspiracy; they are         may happen to bring back the Bourbons when a General
here in the neighborhood; I must either have them watched,            Bonaparte is in possession of eighty line of battle ships and
let them compromise themselves, and so be rid of them, or             four hundred thousand men. The most difficult thing of all
else I must privately protect them. I asked the prefect for           in expectant politics is to know when a power that totters
underlings and he has sent me lynxes, who came through                will fall; but, my old man, Bonaparte’s power is not totter-
Troyes and have got the gendarmerie to support them.”                 ing, it is in the ascendant. Don’t you think that Fouche may
   “Gondreville is your real object,” said Grevin, “and this          be sounding you so as to get to the bottom of your mind,
conspiracy your best chance of keeping it. Fouche, Talleyrand,        and then get rid of you?”
and those two fellows have nothing to do with that. There-              “No; I am sure of my go-between. Besides, Fouche would
fore play fair with them. What nonsense! those who cut Louis          never, under those circumstances, send me such fellows as
XVI.’s head off are in the government; France is full of men          these; he would know they would make me suspicious.”
who have bought national property, and yet you talk of bring-           “They alarm me,” said Grevin. “If Fouche does not dis-
ing back those who would require you to give up Gondreville!          trust you, and is not seeking to probe you, why does he send
If the Bourbons were not imbeciles they would pass a sponge           them? Fouche doesn’t play such a trick as that without a
over all we have done. Warn Bonaparte, that’s my advice.”             motive; what is it?”
   “A man of my rank can’t denounce,” said Malin, quickly.              “What decides me,” said Malin, “is that I should never be
   “Your rank!” exclaimed Grevin, smiling.                            easy with those two Simeuse brothers in France. Perhaps
   “They have offered to make me Keeper of the Seals.”                Fouche, who knows how I am placed towards them, wants

                                                                 28
                                                             Balzac
to make sure they don’t escape him, and hopes through them                                  CHAPTER III
to reach the Condes.”
  “That’s right, old fellow; it is not under Bonaparte that the                    THE MASK THROWN OFF
present possessor of Gondreville can be ousted.”
  Just then Malin, happening to look up, saw the muzzle of             A FEW MOMENTS LATER Michu returned home, his face pale,
a gun through the foliage of a tall linden.                            his features contracted.
  “I was not mistaken, I thought I heard the click of a trig-             “What is the matter?” said his wife, frightened.
ger,” he said to Grevin, after getting behind the trunk of a              “Nothing,” he replied, seeing Violette whose presence si-
large tree, where the notary, uneasy at his friend’s sudden            lenced him.
movement, followed him.                                                   Michu took a chair and sat down quietly before the fire,
  “It is Michu,” said Grevin; “I see his red beard.”                   into which he threw a letter which he drew from a tin tube
  “Don’t let us seem afraid,” said Malin, who walked slowly            such as are given to soldiers to hold their papers. This act,
away, saying at intervals: “Why is that man so bitter against          which enabled Marthe to draw a long breath like one re-
the owners of this property? It was not you he was covering.           lieved of a great burden, greatly puzzled Violette. The bailiff
If he overheard us he had better ask the prayers of the con-           laid his gun on the mantel-shelf with admirable composure.
gregation! Who the devil would have thought of looking up              Marianne the servant, and Marthe’s mother were spinning
into the trees!”                                                       by the light of a lamp.
  “There’s always something to learn,” said the notary. “But              “Come, Francois,” said the father, presently, “it is time to
he was a good distance off, and we spoke low.”                         go to bed.”
  “I shall tell Corentin about it,” replied Malin.                        He lifted the boy roughly by the middle of his body and
                                                                       carried him off.

                                                                  29
                                                      An Historical Mystery
  “Run down to the cellar,” he whispered, when they reached                 “I want to leave the neighborhood, and I’ll let you have
the stairs. “Empty one third out of two bottles of the Macon             my farm of Mousseau, the buildings, granary, and cattle for
wine, and fill them up with the Cognac brandy which is on                fifty thousand francs.”
the shelf. Then mix a bottle of white wine with one half brandy.            “Really?”
Do it neatly, and put the three bottles on the empty cask which             “Does that suit you?”
stands by the cellar door. When you hear me open the win-                   “Hang it! I must think—”
dow in the kitchen come out of the cellar, run to the stable,               “We’ll talk about it—I shall want earnest money.”
saddle my horse, mount it, and go and wait for me at Poteaudes-             “I have no money.”
Gueux—That little scamp hates to go to bed,” said Michu,                    “Well, a note.”
returning; “he likes to do as grown people do, see all, hear all,          “Can’t give it.”
and know all. You spoil my people, pere Violette.”                         “Tell me who sent you here to-day.”
  “Goodness!” cried Violette, “what has loosened your                      “I am on my way back from where I spent this afternoon,
tongue? I never heard you say as much before.”                           and I only stopped in to say good-evening.”
  “Do you suppose I let myself be spied upon without tak-                  “Back without your horse? What a fool you must take me
ing notice of it? You are on the wrong side, pere Violette. If,          for! You are lying, and you shall not have my farm.”
instead of serving those who hate me, you were on my side I                “Well, to tell you the truth, it was monsieur Grevin who
could do better for you than renew that lease of yours.”                 sent me. He said ‘Violette, we want Michu; do you go and
  “How?” said the peasant, opening wide his avaricious eyes.             get him; if he isn’t at home, wait for him.’ I saw I should
  “I’ll sell you my property cheap.”                                     have to stay here all this evening.”
  “Nothing is cheap when we have to pay,” said Violette,                   “Are those sharks from Paris still at the chateau?”
sententiously.                                                             “Ah! that I don’t know; but there were people in the salon.”

                                                                    30
                                                             Balzac
  “You shall have my farm; we’ll settle the terms now. Wife,              “Do you like that wine?” said Michu, refilling his glass.
go and get some wine to wash down the contract. Take the                  “Yes, I do.”
best Roussillon, the wine of the ex-marquis,—we are not                   After a good half-hour’s decision on the time when the
babes. You’ll find a couple of bottles on the empty cask near          buyer might take possession, and on the various punctilios
the door, and a bottle of white wine.”                                 which the peasantry bring forward when concluding a bar-
  “Very good,” said Violette, who never got drunk. “Let us             gain,—in the midst of assertions and counter-assertions, the
drink.”                                                                filling and emptying of glasses, the giving of promises and
  “You have fifty thousand francs beneath the floor of your            denials, Violette suddenly fell forward with his head on the
bedroom under your bed, pere Violette; you will give them              table, not tipsy, but dead-drunk. The instant that Michu saw
to me two weeks after we sign the deed of sale before Grevin—          his eyes blur he opened the window.
” Violette stared at Michu and grew livid. “Ah! you came                  “Where’s that scamp, Gaucher?” he said to his wife.
here to spy upon a Jacobin who had the honor to be presi-                 “In bed.”
dent of the club at Arcis, and you imagine he will let you get            “You, Marianne,” said the bailiff to his faithful servant,
the better of him! I have eyes, I saw where your tiles have            “stand in front of his door and watch him. You, mother, stay
been freshly cemented, and I concluded that you did not                down here, and keep an eye on this spy; keep your eyes and
pry them up to plant wheat there. Come, drink.”                        ears open and don’t unfasten the door to any one but Francois.
  Violette, much troubled, drank a large glass of wine without         It is a question of life or death,” he added, in a deep voice.
noticing the quality; terror had put a hot iron in his stomach,        “Every creature beneath my roof must remember that I have
the brandy was not hotter than his cupidity. He would have             not quitted it this night; all of you must assert that—even
given many things to be safely home and able to change the             though your heads were on the block. Come,” he said to
hiding-place of his treasure. The three women smiled.                  Marthe, “come, wife, put on your shoes, take your coat, and

                                                                  31
                                                     An Historical Mystery
let us be off! No questions—I go with you.”                             of him.
  For the last three quarters of an hour the man’s demeanor               These were his first words. His wife had rushed after him,
and glance were of despotic authority, all-powerful, irresist-          unable to speak.
ible, drawn from the same mysterious source from which                    “Go back to the house, hide in a thick tree, and watch the
great generals on fields of battle who inflame an army, great           country and the park,” he said to his son. “We have all gone
orators inspiring vast audiences, and (it must be said) great           to bed, no one is stirring. Your grandmother will not open
criminals perpetrating bold crimes derive their inspiration.            the door until you ask her to let you in. Remember every
At such times invincible influence seems to exhale from the             word I say to you. The life of your father and mother de-
head and issue from the tongue; the gesture even can inject             pends on it. No one must know we did not sleep at home.”
the will of the one man into others. The three women knew                 After whispering these words to the boy, who instantly dis-
that some dreadful crisis was at hand; without warning of its           appeared in the forest like an eel in the mud, Michu turned
nature they felt it in the rapid actions of the man, whose              to his wife.
countenance shone, whose forehead spoke, whose brilliant                  “Mount behind me,” he said, “and pray that God be with
eyes glittered like stars; they saw it in the sweat that covered        us. Sit firm, the beast may die of it.” So saying he kicked the
his brow to the roots of his hair, while more than once his             horse with both heels, pressing him with his powerful knees,
voice vibrated with impatience and fury. Marthe obeyed pas-             and the animal sprang forward with the rapidity of a hunter,
sively. Armed to the teeth and with his gun over his shoulder           seeming to understand what his master wanted of him, and
Michu dashed into the avenue, followed by his wife. They                crossed the forest in fifteen minutes. Then Michu, who had
soon reached the cross-roads where Francois was in waiting              not swerved from the shortest way, pulled up, found a spot
hidden among the bushes.                                                at the edge of the woods from which he could see the roofs
  “The boy is intelligent,” said Michu, when he caught sight            of the chateau of Cinq-Cygne lighted by the moon, tied his

                                                                   32
                                                              Balzac
horse to a tree, and followed by his wife, gained a little emi-         Before the castle lies a vast green sward the trees of which
nence which overlooked the valley.                                      had recently been cut down. On either side of the entrance
   The chateau, which Marthe and Michu looked at together               bridge are two small dwellings where the gardeners live, con-
for a moment, makes a charming effect in the landscape.                 nected across the road by a paltry iron railing without char-
Though it has little extent and is of no importance whatever            acter, evidently modern. To right and left of the lawn, which
as architecture, yet archaeologically it is not without a cer-          is divided in two by a paved road-way, are the stables, cow-
tain interest. This old edifice of the fifteenth century, placed        sheds, barns, wood-house, bakery, poultry-yard, and the of-
on an eminence, surrounded on all sides by a moat, or rather            fices, placed in what were doubtless the remains of two wings
by deep, wide ditches always full of water, is built in cobble-         of the old building similar to those that were still standing.
stones buried in cement, the walls being seven feet thick. Its          The two large towers, with their pepper-pot roofs which had
simplicity recalls the rough and warlike life of feudal days.           not been rased, and the belfry of the middle tower, gave an
The chateau, plain and unadorned, has two large reddish                 air of distinction to the village. The church, also very old,
towers at either end, connected by a long main building with            showed near by its pointed steeple, which harmonized well
casement windows, the stone mullions of which, being                    with the solid masses of the castle. The moon brought out in
roughly carved, bear some resemblance to vine-shoots. The               full relief the various roofs and towers on which it played
stairway is outside the house, at the middle, in a sort of pen-         and sparkled.
tagonal tower entered through a small arched door. The in-                 Michu gazed at this baronial structure in a manner that
terior of the ground-floor together with the rooms on the               upset all his wife’s ideas about him; his face, now calm, wore
first storey were modernized in the time of Louis XIV., and             a look of hope and also a sort of pride. His eyes scanned the
the whole building is surmounted by an immense roof bro-                horizon with a glance of defiance; he listened for sounds in
ken by casement windows with carved triangular pediments.               the air. It was now nine o’clock; the moon was beginning to

                                                                   33
                                                  An Historical Mystery
cast its light upon the margin of the forest and to illumine           “You don’t understand me,” cried Marthe, seizing his large
the little bluff on which they stood. The position struck him        hand and falling on her knees beside him as she kissed it and
as dangerous and he left it, fearful of being seen. But no           covered it with her tears.
suspicious noise troubled the peace of the beautiful valley            “Go, go, you shall cry later,” he said, kissing her vehemently.
encircled on this side by the forest of Nodesme. Marthe,               When he no longer heard her step his eyes filled with tears.
exhausted and trembling, was awaiting some explanation of            He had distrusted Marthe on account of her father’s opin-
their hurried ride. What was she engaged in? Was she to aid          ions; he had hidden the secrets of his life from her; but the
in a good deed or an evil one? At that instant Michu bent to         beauty of her simple nature had suddenly appeared to him,
his wife’s ear and whispered:—                                       just as the grandeur of his had, as suddenly, revealed itself to
   “Go the house and ask to speak to the Comtesse de Cinq-           her. Marthe had passed in a moment from the deep humili-
Cygne; when you see her beg her to speak to you alone. If no         ation caused by the degradation of the man whose name she
one can overhear you, say to her: ‘Mademoiselle, the lives of        bore, to the exaltation given by a sense of his nobleness. The
your two cousins are in danger, and he who can explain the           change was instantaneous, without transition; it was enough
how and why is waiting to speak to you.’ If she seems afraid,        to make her tremble. She told him later that she went, as it
if she distrusts you, add these words: ‘They are conspiring          were, through blood from the pavilion to the edge of the
against the First Consul and the conspiracy is discovered.’          forest, and there was lifted to heaven, in a moment, among
Don’t give your name; they distrust us too much.”                    the angels. Michu, who had known he was not appreciated,
   Marthe raised her face towards her husband and said:—             and who mistook his wife’s grieved and melancholy manner
   “Can it be that you serve them?”                                  for lack of affection, and had left her to herself, living chiefly
   “What if I do?” he said, frowning, taking her words as a          out of doors and reserving all his tenderness for his boy, in-
reproach.                                                            stantly understood the meaning of her tears. She had cursed

                                                                34
                                                           Balzac
the part which her beauty and her father’s will had forced           window; order them to saddle her horse, and ask her to come
her to take; but now happiness, in the midst of this great           out through the breach. I’ll be there, after discovering what
storm, played, with a beautiful flame like a vivid lightning         the Parisians are planning, and how to escape them.”
about them. And it was lightning! Each thought of the last             Danger, which seemed to be rolling like an avalanche upon
ten years of misconception, and they blamed themselves only.         them, gave wings to Marthe’s feet.
Michu stood motionless, his elbow on his gun, his chin on
his hand, lost in deep reverie. Such a moment in a man’s life
makes him willing to accept the saddest moments of a pain-
ful past.
  Marthe, agitated by the same thoughts as those of her hus-
band, was also troubled in heart by the danger of the Simeuse
brothers; for she now understood all, even the faces of the
two Parisians, though she still could not explain to herself
her husband’s gun. She darted forward like a doe, and soon
reached the road to the chateau. There she was surprised by
the steps of a man following behind her; she turned, with a
cry, and her husband’s large hand closed her mouth.
  “From the hill up there I saw the silver lace of the gen-
darmes’ hats. Go in by the breach in the moat between
Mademoiselle’s tower and the stables. The dogs won’t bark
at you. Go through the garden and call the countess by the

                                                                35
                                                       An Historical Mystery
                       CHAPTER IV                                          through the delicate close texture of her skin. Her beautiful
                                                                           golden hair harmonized delightfully with eyes of the deepest
          LAURENCE DE CINQ-CYGNE                                           blue. Everything about her belonged to the type of delicacy.
                                                                           Within that fragile though active body, and in defiance as it
T HE OLD F RANK NAME of the Cinq-Cygnes and the                            were of its pearly whiteness, lived a soul like that of a man of
Chargeboeufs was Duineff. Cinq-Cygne became that of the                    noble nature; but no one, not even a close observer, would
younger branch of the Chargeboeufs after the defence of a                  have suspected it from the gentle countenance and rounded
castle made, during their father’s absence, by five daughters              features which, when seen in profile, bore some slight re-
of that race, all remarkably fair, and of whom no one ex-                  semblance to those of a lamb. This extreme gentleness, though
pected such heroism. One of the first Comtes de Cham-                      noble, had something of the stupidity of the little animal. “I
pagne wished, by bestowing this pretty name, to perpetuate                 look like a dreamy sheep,” she would say, smiling. Laurence,
the memory of their deed as long as the family existed.                    who talked little, seemed not so much dreamy as dormant.
Laurence, the last of her race, was, contrary to Salic law, heiress        But, did any important circumstance arise, the hidden Judith
of the name, the arms, and the manor. She was therefore                    was revealed, sublime; and circumstances had, unfortunately,
Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne in her own right; her husband                       not been wanting.
would have to take both her name and her blazon, which                       At thirteen years of age, Laurence, after the events already
bore for device the glorious answer made by the elder of the               related, was an orphan living in a house opposite to the empty
five sisters when summoned to surrender the castle, “We die                space where so recently had stood one of the most curious
singing.” Worthy descendant of these noble heroines,                       specimens in France of sixteenth-century architecture, the
Laurence was fair and lily-white as though nature had made                 hotel Cinq-Cygne. Monsieur d’Hauteserre, her relation, now
her for a wager. The lines of her blue veins could be seen                 her guardian, took the young heiress to live in the country at

                                                                      36
                                                            Balzac
her chateau of Cinq-Cygne. That brave provincial gentle-              side the lines of her own life. She had, moreover, too good a
man, alarmed at the death of his brother, the Abbe                    mind and too sound a judgment to complain of their na-
d’Hauteserre, who was shot in the open square as he was               tures; always kind, amiable, and affectionate towards them,
about to escape in the dress of a peasant, was not in a posi-         she nevertheless told them none of her secrets. Nothing forms
tion to defend the interests of his ward. He had two sons in          a character so much as the practice of constant concealment
the army of the princes, and every day, at the slightest un-          in the bosom of a family.
usual sound, he believed that the municipals of Arcis were              After she attained her majority Laurence allowed Mon-
coming to arrest him. Laurence, proud of having sustained a           sieur d’Hauteserre to manage her affairs as in the past. So
siege and of possessing the historic whiteness of her swan-           long as her favorite mare was well-groomed, her maid
like ancestors, despised the prudent cowardice of the old man         Catherine dressed to please her, and Gothard the little page
who bent to the storm, and dreamed only of distinguishing             was suitably clothed, she cared for nothing else. Her thoughts
herself. So, she boldly hung the portrait of Charlotte Corday         were aimed too high to come down to occupations and in-
on the walls of her poor salon at Cinq-Cygne, and crowned             terests which in other times than these would doubtless have
it with oak-leaves. She corresponded by messenger with her            pleased her. Dress was a small matter to her mind; moreover
twin cousins, in defiance of the law, which punished the act,         her cousins were not there to see her. She wore a dark-green
when discovered, with death. The messenger, who risked his            habit when she rode, and a gown of some common woollen
life, brought back the answers. Laurence lived only, after the        stuff with a cape trimmed with braid when she walked; in
catastrophes at Troyes, for the triumph of the royal cause.           the house she was always seen in a silk wrapper. Gothard,
After soberly judging Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre                the little groom, a brave and clever lad of fifteen, attended
(who lived with her at the chateau de Cinq-Cygne), and rec-           her wherever she went, and she was nearly always out of
ognizing their honest, but stolid natures, she put them out-          doors, riding or hunting over the farms of Gondreville, with-

                                                                 37
                                                  An Historical Mystery
out objection being made by either Michu or the farmers.            ful guardian. Under his administration Cinq-Cygne became
She rode admirably well, and her cleverness in hunting was          a sort of farm. The good man, who was far more of a close
thought miraculous. In the country she was never called any-        manager than a knight of the old nobility, had turned the
thing but “Mademoiselle” even during the Revolution.                park and gardens to profit, and used their two hundred acres
  Whoever has read the fine romance of “Rob Roy” will re-           of grass and woodland as pasturage for horses and fuel for
member that rare woman for whose making Walter Scott’s              the family. Thanks to his severe economy the countess, on
imagination abandoned its customary coldness,—Diana                 coming of age, had recovered by his investments in the State
Vernon. The recollection will serve to make Laurence un-            funds a competent fortune. In 1798 she possessed about
derstood if, to the noble qualities of the Scottish huntress        twenty thousand francs a year from those sources, on which,
you add the restrained exaltation of Charlotte Corday, sur-         in fact, some dividends were still due, and twelve thousand
passing, however, the charming vivacity which rendered              francs a year from the rentals at Cinq-Cygne, which had lately
Diana so attractive. The young countess had seen her mother         been renewed at a notable increase. Monsieur and Madame
die, the Abbe d’Hauteserre shot down, the Marquis de                d’Hauteserre had provided for their old age by the purchase
Simeuse and his wife executed; her only brother had died of         of an annuity of three thousand francs in the Tontines Lafarge.
his wounds; her two cousins serving in Conde’s army might           That fragment of their former means did not enable them to
be killed at any moment; and, finally, the fortunes of the          live elsewhere than at Cinq-Cygne, and Laurence’s first act
Simeuse and the Cinq-Cygne families had been seized and             on coming to her majority was to give them the use for life
wasted by the Republic without being of any benefit to the          of the wing of the chateau which they occupied.
nation. Her grave demeanor, now lapsing into apparent sto-             The Hauteserres, as niggardly for their ward as they were
lidity, can be readily understood.                                  for themselves, laid up every year nearly the whole of their
  Monsieur d’Hauteserre proved an upright and most care-            annuity for the benefit of their sons, and kept the young

                                                               38
                                                               Balzac
heiress on miserable fare. The whole cost of the Cinq-Cygne              attended by Gothard, but neither Monsieur nor Madame
household never exceeded five thousand francs a year. But                d’Hauteserre questioned her, on her return, as to the reasons
Laurence, who condescended to no details, was satisfied. Her             of her absence. Please observe, however, that there was noth-
guardian and his wife, unconsciously ruled by the impercep-              ing odd or eccentric about Laurence. What she was and what
tible influence of her strong character, which was felt even in          she did was masked, as it were, by a feminine and even frag-
little things, had ended by admiring her whom they had                   ile appearance. Her heart was full of extreme sensibility,
known and treated as a child,—a sufficiently rare feeling.               though her head contained a stoical firmness and the virile
But in her manner, her deep voice, her commanding eye,                   gift of resolution. Her clear-seeing eyes knew not how to
Laurence held that inexplicable power which rules all men,—              weep; but no one would have imagined that the delicate white
even when its strength is mere appearance. To vulgar minds               wrist with its tracery of blue veins could defy that of the
real depth is incomprehensible; it is perhaps for that reason            boldest horseman. Her hand, so noble, so flexible, could
that the populace is so prone to admire what it cannot un-               handle gun or pistol with the ease of a practised marksman.
derstand. Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, impressed                    She always wore when out of doors the coquettish little cap
by the habitual silence and erratic habits of the young girl,            with visor and green veil which women wear on horseback.
were constantly expecting some extraordinary thing of her.               Her delicate fair face, thus protected, and her white throat
   Laurence, who did good intelligently and never allowed                tied with a black cravat, were never injured by her long rides
herself to be deceived, was held in the utmost respect by the            in all weathers.
peasantry although she was an aristocrat. Her sex, name, and                Under the Directory and at the beginning of the Consu-
great misfortunes, also the originality of her present life, con-        late, Laurence had been able to escape the observation of
tributed to give her authority over the inhabitants of the val-          others; but since the government had become a more settled
ley of Cinq-Cygne. She was sometimes absent for two days,                thing, the new authorities, the prefect of the Aube, Malin’s

                                                                    39
                                                     An Historical Mystery
friends, and Malin himself had endeavored to undermine                  knew her well, was at the present moment the faithful guide
her in the community. Her preoccupying thought was the                  and assistant of the exiled gentlemen who came from En-
overthrow of Bonaparte, whose ambition and its triumphs                 gland to take part in this deadly enterprise.
excited the anger of her soul,—a cold, deliberate anger. The              Fouche relied on the co-operation of the emigres every-
obscure and hidden enemy of a man at the pinnacle of glory,             where beyond the Rhine to lure the Duc d’Enghien into the
she kept her gaze upon him from the depths of her valley                plot. The presence of that prince in the Baden territory, not
and her forests, with relentless fixity; there were times when          far from Strasburg, gave much weight later to the accusa-
she thought of killing him in the roads about Malmaison or              tion. The great question of whether the prince really knew
Saint-Cloud. Plans for the execution of this idea may have              of the enterprise, and was waiting on the frontier to enter
been the cause of many of her past actions, but having been             France on its success, is one of those secrets about which, as
initiated, after the peace of Amiens, into the conspiracy of            about several others, the house of Bourbon has maintained
the men who expected to make the 18th Brumaire recoil                   an unbroken silence. As the history of that period recedes
upon the First Consul, she had thenceforth subordinated                 into the past, impartial historians will declare the impru-
her faculties and her hatred to their vast and well laid scheme,        dence, to say the least, of the Duc d’Enghien in placing him-
which was to strike at Bonaparte externally by the vast coali-          self close to the frontier at a time when a vast conspiracy was
tion of Russia, Austria, and Prussia (vanquished at Austerlitz)         about to break forth, the secret of which was undoubtedly
and internally by the coalition of men politically opposed to           known to every member of the Bourbon family.
each other, but united by their common hatred of a man                    The caution which Malin displayed in talking with Grevin
whose death some of them were meditating, like Laurence                 in the open air, Laurence applied to her every action. She
herself, without shrinking from the word assassination. This            met the emissaries and conferred with them either at various
young girl, so fragile to the eye, so powerful to those who             points in the Nodesme forest, or beyond the valley of the

                                                                   40
                                                             Balzac
Cinq-Cygne, between the villages of Sezanne and Brienne.               him from the neighborhood. He knew how to practise all
Often she rode forty miles on a stretch with Gothard, and              the tricks of a spy. The extreme distrust and caution his mis-
returned to Cinq-Cygne without the least sign of weariness             tress had taught him did not change his natural self. Gothard,
or pre-occupation on her fair young face.                              who possessed all the craft of a woman, the candor of a child,
  Some years earlier, Laurence had seen in the eyes of a little        and the ceaseless observation of a conspirator, hid every one
cow-boy, then nine years old, the artless admiration which             of these admirable qualities beneath the torpor and dull ig-
children feel for everything that is out of the common way.            norance of a country lad. The little fellow had a silly, weak,
She made him her page, and taught him to groom a horse                 and clumsy appearance; but once at work he was active as a
with the nicety and care of an Englishman. She saw in the              fish; he escaped like an eel; he understood, as the dogs do,
lad a desire to do well, a bright intelligence, and a total ab-        the merest glance; he nosed a thought. His good fat face,
sence of sly motives; she tested his devotion and found he             both round and red, his sleepy brown eyes, his hair, cut in
had not only mind but nobility of character; he never dreamed          the peasant fashion, his clothes, and his slow growth gave
of reward. The young girl trained this soul that was still so          him the appearance of a child of ten.
young; she was good to him, good with dignity; she attached               The two young d’Hauteserres and the twin brothers
him to her by attaching herself to him, and by herself pol-            Simeuse, under the guidance of their cousin Laurence, who
ishing a nature that was half wild, without destroying its             had been watching over their safety and that of the other
freshness or its simplicity. When she had sufficiently tested          emigres who accompanied them from Strasburg to Bar-sur-
the almost canine fidelity she had nurtured, Gothard be-               Aube, had just passed through Alsace and Lorraine, and were
came her intelligent and ingenuous accomplice. The little              now in Champagne while other conspirators, not less bold,
peasant, whom no one could suspect, went from Cinq-Cygne               were entering France by the cliffs of Normandy. Dressed as
to Nancy, and often returned before any one had missed                 workmen the d’Hauteserres and the Simeuse twins had

                                                                  41
                                                   An Historical Mystery
walked from forest to forest, guided on their way by relays of        knew the peril she had escaped from the camp at Boulogne;
persons, chosen by Laurence during the last three months              and yet the police of France was never more intelligently or
from among the least suspected of the Bourbon adherents               ably managed.
living in each neighborhood. The emigres slept by day and               At the period when this history begins, a coward—for cow-
travelled by night. Each brought with him two faithful sol-           ards are always to be found in conspiracies which are not
diers; one of whom went before to warn of danger, the other           confined to a small number of equally strong men—a sworn
behind to protect a retreat. Thanks to these military precau-         confederate, brought face to face with death, gave certain
tions, this valuable detachment had at last reached, without          information, happily insufficient to cover the extent of the
accident, the forest of Nodesme, which was chosen as the              conspiracy, but precise enough to show the object of the en-
rendezvous. Twenty-seven other gentlemen had entered                  terprise. The police had therefore, as Malin told Grevin, left
France from Switzerland and crossed Burgundy, guided to-              the conspirators at liberty, though all the while watching
wards Paris with the same caution.                                    them, hoping to discover the ramifications of the plot. Nev-
  Monsieur de Riviere counted on collecting five hundred              ertheless, the government found its hand to a certain extent
men, one hundred of whom were young nobles, the officers              forced by Georges Cadoudal, a man of action who took coun-
of this sacred legion. Monsieur de Polignac and Monsieur de           sel of himself only, and who was hiding in Paris with twenty-
Riviere, whose conduct as chiefs of this advance was most             five chouans for the purpose of attacking the First Consul.
remarkable, afterwards preserved an impenetrable secrecy as             Laurence combined both hatred and love within her breast.
to the names of those of their accomplices who were not               To destroy Bonaparte and bring back the Bourbons was to
discovered. It may be said, therefore, now that the Restora-          recover Gondreville and make the fortune of her cousins.
tion has made matters clearer, that Bonaparte never knew              The two sentiments, one the counterpart of the other, were
the extent of the danger he then ran, any more than England           sufficient, more especially at twenty-three years of age, to

                                                                 42
                                                            Balzac
excite all the faculties of her soul and all the powers of her        both in the secret, modelled their behavior upon hers.
being. So, for the last two months, she had seemed to the             Catherine was nineteen years old. At that age a girl is a fa-
inhabitants of Cinq-Cygne more beautiful than at any other            natic and would let her throat be cut before betraying a
period of her life. Her cheeks became rosy; hope gave pride           thought of one she loves. As for Gothard, merely to inhale
to her brow; but when old d’Hauteserre read the Gazette at            the perfume which the countess used in her hair and among
night and discussed the conservative course of the First Con-         her clothes he would have born the rack without a word.
sul she lowered her eyes to conceal her passionate hopes of
the coming fall of that enemy of the Bourbons.
  No one at the chateau had the faintest idea that the young
countess had met her cousins the night before. The two sons
of Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre had passed the pre-
ceding night in Laurence’s own room, under the same roof
with their father and mother; and Laurence, after knowing
them safely in bed had gone between one and two o’clock in
the morning to a rendezvous with her cousins in the forest,
where she hid them in the deserted hut of a wood-dealer’s
agent. The following day, certain of seeing them again, she
showed no signs of her joy; nothing about her betrayed emo-
tion; she was able to efface all traces of pleasure at having
met them again; in fact, she was impassible. Catherine, her
pretty maid, daughter of her former nurse, and Gothard,

                                                                 43
                                                     An Historical Mystery
                      CHAPTER V                                         tered Paris, she had found Monsieur and Madame
                                                                        d’Hauteserre just finishing their dinner. Pressed by hunger
    ROYALIST HOMES AND PORTRAITS                                        she sat down to table without changing either her muddy
        UNDER THE CONSULATE                                             habit or her boots. Instead of doing so at once after dinner,
                                                                        she was suddenly overcome with fatigue and allowed her head
AT THE MOMENT when Marthe, driven by the imminence of                   with its beautiful fair curls to drop on the back of the sofa,
the peril, was gliding with the rapidity of a shadow towards            her feet being supported in front of her by a stool. The
the breach of which Michu had told her, the salon of the                warmth of the fire had dried the mud on her habit and on
chateau of Cinq-Cygne presented a peaceful sight. Its occu-             her boots. Her doeskin gloves and the little peaked cap with
pants were so far from suspecting the storm that was about              its green veil and a whip lay on the table where she had flung
to burst upon them that their quiet aspect would have roused            them. She looked sometimes at the old Boule clock which
the compassion of any one who knew their situation. In the              stood on the mantelshelf between the candelabra, perhaps
large fireplace, the mantel of which was adorned with a mir-            to judge if her four conspirators were asleep, and sometimes
ror with shepherdesses in paniers painted on its frame, burned          at the card-table in front of the fire where Monsieur and
a fire such as can be seen only in chateaus bordering on for-           Madame d’Hauteserre, the cure of Cinq-Cygne, and his sis-
ests. At the corner of this fireplace, on a large square sofa of        ter were playing a game of boston.
gilded wood with a magnificent brocaded cover, the young                   Even if these personages were not embedded in this drama,
countess lay as it were extended, in an attitude of utter wea-          their portraits would have the merit of representing one of
riness. Returning at six o’clock from the confines of Brie,             the aspects of the aristocracy after its overthrow in 1793.
having played the part of scout to the four gentlemen whom              From this point of view, a sketch of the salon at Cinq-Cygne
she guided safely to their last halting-place before they en-           has the raciness of history seen in dishabille.

                                                                   44
                                                            Balzac
  Monsieur d’Hauteserre, then fifty-two years of age, tall,           without an effort at defence, and would have gone to the
spare, high-colored, and robust in health, would have seemed          scaffold quietly. His annuity of three thousand francs kept
the embodiment of vigor if it were not for a pair of porcelain        him from emigrating. He therefore obeyed the government
blue eyes, the glance of which denoted the most absolute              de facto without ceasing to love the royal family and to pray
simplicity. In his face, which ended in a long pointed chin,          for their return, though he would firmly have refused to com-
there was, judging by the rules of design, an unnatural dis-          promise himself by any effort in their favor. He belonged to
tance between his nose and mouth which gave him a sub-                that class of royalists who ceaselessly remembered that they
missive air, wholly in keeping with his character, which har-         were beaten and robbed; and who remained thenceforth
monized, in fact, with other details of his appearance. His           dumb, economical, rancorous, without energy; incapable of
gray hair, flattened by his hat, which he wore nearly all day,        abjuring the past, but equally incapable of sacrifice; waiting
looked much like a skull-cap on his head, and defined its             to greet triumphant royalty; true to religion and true to the
pear-shaped outline. His forehead, much wrinkled by life in           priesthood, but firmly resolved to bear in silence the shocks
the open air and by constant anxieties, was flat and expres-          of fate. Such an attitude cannot be considered that of main-
sionless. His aquiline nose redeemed the face somewhat; but           taining opinions, it becomes sheer obstinacy. Action is the
the sole indication of any strength of character lay in the           essence of party. Without intelligence, but loyal, miserly as a
bushy eyebrows which retained their blackness, and in the             peasant yet noble in demeanor, bold in his wishes but dis-
brilliant coloring of his skin. These signs were in some re-          creet in word and action, turning all things to profit, willing
spects not misleading, for the worthy gentlemen, though               even to be made mayor of Cinq-Cygne, Monsieur
simple and very gentle, was Catholic and monarchical in               d’Hauteserre was an admirable representative of those hon-
faith, and no consideration on earth could make him change            orable gentlemen on whose brow God Himself has written
his views. Nevertheless he would have let himself be arrested         the word mites,—Frenchmen who burrowed in their coun-

                                                                 45
                                                    An Historical Mystery
try homes and let the storms of the Revolution pass above              tended an act of political eclecticism in adopting this cos-
their heads; who came once more to the surface under the               tume, which combined the styles of peasant, revolutionist,
Restoration, rich with their hidden savings, proud of their            and aristocrat; he simply and innocently obeyed the dictates
discreet attachment to the monarchy, and who, after 1830,              of circumstances.
recovered their estates.                                                 Madame d’Hauteserre, forty years of age and wasted by
  Monsieur d’Hauteserre’s costume, expressive envelope of              emotions, had a faded face which seemed to be always pos-
his distinctive character, described to the eye both the man           ing for its portrait. A lace cap, trimmed with bows of white
and his period. He always wore one of those nut-colored                satin, contributed singularly to give her a solemn air. She
great-coats with small collars which the Duc d’Orleans made            still wore powder, in spite of a white kerchief, and a gown of
the fashion after his return from England, and which were,             puce-colored silk with tight sleeves and full skirt, the sad last
during the Revolution, a sort of compromise between the                garments of Marie-Antoinette. Her nose was pinched, her
hideous popular garments and the elegant surtouts of the               chin sharp, the whole face nearly triangular, the eyes worn-
aristocracy. His velvet waistcoat with flowered stripes, the           out with weeping; but she now wore a touch of rouge which
style of which recalled those of Robespierre and Saint-Just,           brightened their grayness. She took snuff, and each time that
showed the upper part of a shirt-frill in fine plaits. He still        she did so she employed all the pretty precautions of the
wore breeches; but his were of coarse blue cloth, with bur-            fashionable women of her early days; the details of this snuff-
nished steel buckles. His stockings of black spun-silk defined         taking constituted a ceremony which could be explained by
his deer-like legs, the feet of which were shod in thick shoes,        one fact—she had very pretty hands.
held in place by gaiters of black cloth. He retained the former          For the last two years the former tutor of the Simeuse twins,
fashion of a muslin cravat in innumerable folds fastened by            a friend of the late Abbe d’Hauteserre, named Goujet, Abbe
a gold buckle at the throat. The worthy man had not in-                des Minimes, had taken charge of the parish of Cinq-Cygne

                                                                  46
                                                             Balzac
out of friendship for the d’Hauteserres and the young count-           a study of young people and fully understood the noble char-
ess. His sister, Mademoiselle Goujet, who possessed a little           acter of the young countess; he appreciated her at her full
income of seven hundred francs, added that sum to the mea-             value, and had shown her, from the first, a respectful defer-
gre salary of her brother and kept his house. Neither church           ence which contributed much to her independence at Cinq-
nor parsonage had been sold during the Revolution on ac-               Cygne, for it led the austere old lady and the kind old gentle-
count of their small value. The abbe and his sister lived close        man to yield to the young girl, who by rights should have
to the chateau, for the wall of the parsonage garden and that          yielded to them. For the last six months the abbe had watched
of the park were the same in places. Twice a week the pair             Laurence with the intuition peculiar to priests, the most sa-
dined at the chateau, but they came every evening to play              gacious of men; and although he did not know that this girl
boston with the d’Hauteserres; for Laurence, unable to play            of twenty-three was thinking of overturning Bonaparte as
a game, did not even know one card from another.                       she lay there twisting with slender fingers the frogged lacing
  The Abbe Goujet, an old man with white hair and a face               of her riding-habit, he was well aware that she was agitated
as white as that of an old woman, endowed with a kindly                by some great project.
smile and a gentle and persuasive voice, redeemed the insi-               Mademoiselle Goujet was one of those unmarried women
pidity of his rather mincing face by a fine intellectual brow          whose portrait can be drawn in one word which will enable
and a pair of keen eyes. Of medium height, and very well               the least imaginative mind to picture her; she was ungainly.
made, he still wore the old-fashioned black coat, silver shoe-         She knew her own ugliness and was the first to laugh at it,
buckles, breeches, black silk stockings, and a black waistcoat         showing her long teeth, yellow as her complexion and her
on which lay his clerical bands, giving him a distinguished            bony hands. She was gay and hearty. She wore the famous
air which detracted nothing from his dignity. This abbe, who           short gown of former days, a very full skirt with pockets full
became bishop of Troyes after the Restoration, had long made           of keys, a cap with ribbons and a false front. She was forty

                                                                  47
                                                   An Historical Mystery
years of age very early, but had, so she said, caught up with         man congratulated himself on the sagacity of his foresight in
herself by keeping at that age for twenty years. She revered          having put all his savings, amounting to twenty thousand
the nobility; and knew well how to preserve her own dignity           francs, together with those of his ward, in the public Funds
by giving to persons of noble birth the respect and deference         before the 18th Brumaire, which, as we all know, sent those
that were due to them.                                                stocks up from twelve to eighteen francs.
  This little company was a god-send to Madame                          The chateau of Cinq-Cygne had long been empty and de-
d’Hauteserre, who had not, like her husband, rural occupa-            nuded of furniture. The prudent guardian was careful not to
tions, nor, like Laurence, the tonic of hatred, to enable her         alter its aspect during the revolutionary troubles; but after
to bear the dulness of a retired life. Many things had hap-           the peace of Amiens he made a journey to Troyes and brought
pened to ameliorate that life within the last six years. The          back various relics of the pillaged mansions which he ob-
restoration of Catholic worship allowed the faithful to fulfil        tained from the dealers in second-hand furniture. The salon
their religious duties, which play more of a part in country          was furnished for the first time since their occupation of the
life than elsewhere. Protected by the conservative edicts of          house. Handsome curtains of white brocade with green flow-
the First Consul, Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre had                ers, from the hotel de Simeuse, draped the six windows of
been able to correspond with their sons, and no longer in             the salon, in which the family were now assembled. The walls
dread of what might happen to them could even hope for                of this vast room were entirely of wood, with panels encased
the erasure of their names from the lists of the proscribed           in beaded mouldings with masks at the angles; the whole
and their consequent return to France. The Treasury had               painted in two shades of gray. The spaces over the four doors
lately made up the arrearages and now paid its dividends              were filled with those designs, painted in cameo of two col-
promptly; so that the d’Hauteserres received, over and above          ors, which were so much in vogue under Louis XV. Mon-
their annuity, about eight thousand francs a year. The old            sieur d’Hauteserre had picked up at Troyes certain gilded

                                                                 48
                                                            Balzac
pier-tables, a sofa in green damask, a crystal chandelier, a          made for the gardener’s son and for Gothard. Though blamed
card-table of marquetry, among other things that served him           for this imprudence by Monsieur d’Hauteserre, the house-
to restore the chateau. In 1792 all the furniture of the house        keeper took great pleasure in seeing the dinner served on the
had been taken or destroyed, for the pillage of the mansions          festival of Saint-Laurence, the countess’s fete-day, with al-
in town was imitated in the valley. Each time that the old            most as much style as in former times.
man went to Troyes he returned with some relic of the former            This slow and difficult restoration of departed things was
splendor, sometimes a fine carpet for the floor of the salon,         the delight of Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre and the
at other times part of a dinner service, or a bit of rare old         Durieus. Laurence smiled at what she thought nonsense. But
porcelain of either Sevres or Dresden. During the last six            the worthy old d’Hauteserre did not forget the more solid
months he had ventured to dig up the family silver, which             matters; he repaired the buildings, put up the walls, planted
the cook had buried in the cellar of a little house belonging         trees wherever there was a chance to make them grow, and
to him at the end of one of the long faubourgs in Troyes.             did not leave an inch of unproductive land. The whole val-
  That faithful servant, named Durieu, and his wife had fol-          ley regarded him as an oracle in the matter of agriculture.
lowed the fortunes of their young mistress. Durieu was the            He had managed to recover a hundred acres of contested
factotum of the chateau, and his wife was the housekeeper.            land, not sold as national property, being in some way con-
He was helped in the cooking by the sister of Catherine,              founded with that of the township. This land he had turned
Laurence’s maid, to whom he was teaching his art and who              into fields which afforded good pasturage for his horses and
gave promise of becoming an excellent cook. An old gar-               cattle, and he planted them round with poplars, which now,
dener, his wife, a son paid by the day, and a daughter who            at the end of six years, were making a fine growth. He in-
served as a dairy-woman, made up the household. Madame                tended to buy back some of the lost estate, and to utilize all
Durieu had lately and secretly had the Cinq-Cygne liveries            the out-buildings of the chateau by making a second farm

                                                                 49
                                                      An Historical Mystery
and managing it himself.                                                 compromise and stood firmly for the monarchy, militant and
  Life at the chateau had thus become during the last two                implacable. The four old people, anxious that their present
years prosperous and almost happy. Monsieur d’Hauteserre                 peaceful existence should not be risked, nor their spot of
was off at daybreaks to overlook his laborers, for he employed           refuge, saved from the furious waters of the revolutionary
them in all weathers. He came home to breakfast, mounted                 torrent, lost, did their best to convert Laurence to their cau-
his farm pony as soon as the meal was over, and made his                 tious views, believing that her influence counted for much
rounds of the estate like a bailiff,—getting home in time for            in the unwillingness of their sons and the Simeuse twins to
dinner, and finishing the day with a game of boston. All the             return to France. The superb disdain with which she met the
inhabitants of the chateau had their stated occupations; life            project frightened these poor people, who were not mistaken
was as closely regulated there as in a convent. Laurence alone           in their fears that she was meditating what they called knight-
disturbed its even tenor by her sudden journeys, her uncer-              errantry. This jarring of opinion came to the surface after
tain returns, and by what Madame d’Hauteserre called her                 the explosion of the infernal machine in the rue Saint-Nicaise,
pranks. But with all this peacefulness there existed at Cinq-            the first royalist attempt against the conqueror of Marengo
Cygne conflicting interests and certain causes of dissension.            after his refusal to treat with the house of Bourbon. The
In the first place Durieu and his wife were jealous of Catherine         d’Hauteserres considered it fortunate that Bonaparte escaped
and Gothard, who lived in greater intimacy with their young              that danger, believing that the republicans had instigated it.
mistress, the idol of the household, than they did. Then the             But Laurence wept with rage when she heard he was safe.
two d’Hauteserres, encouraged by Mademoiselle Goujet and                 Her despair overcame her usual reticence, and she vehemently
the abbe, wanted their sons as well as the Simeuse brothers              complained that God had deserted the sons of Saint-Louis.
to take the oath and return to this quiet life, instead of living          “I,” she exclaimed, “I could have succeeded! Have we no
miserably in foreign countries. Laurence scouted the odious              right,” she added, seeing the stupefaction her words produced

                                                                    50
                                                               Balzac
on the faces about her, and addressing the abbe, “no right to            the fears of these submissive royalists. Still, as no event hap-
attack the usurper by every means in our power?”                         pened, and perfect quiet appeared to reign in the political
  “My child,” replied the abbe, “the Church has been greatly             atmosphere, the minds of the little household were soothed
blamed by philosophers for declaring in former times that                into peace, and the countess’s long rides were one more at-
the same weapons might be employed against usurpers which                tributed to her passion for hunting.
the usurpers themselves had employed to succeed; but in                    It is easy to imagine the deep silence which reigned at nine
these days the Church owes far too much to the First Consul              o’clock in the evening in the park, courtyards, and gardens of
not to protect him against that maxim,—which, by the by,                 Cinq-Cygne, where at that particular moment the persons we
was due to the Jesuits.”                                                 have described were harmoniously grouped, where perfect
  “So the Church abandons us!” she answered, gloomily.                   peace pervaded all things, where comfort and abundance were
  From that day forth whenever the four old people talked                again enjoyed, and where the worthy and judicious old gentle-
of submitting to the decrees of Providence, Laurence left the            man was still hoping to convert his late ward to his system of
room. Of late, the abbe, shrewder than Monsieur                          obedience to the ruling powers by the argument of what we
d’Hauteserre, instead of discussing principles, drew pictures            may call the continuity of prosperous results.
of the material advantages of the consular rule, less to con-              These royalists continued to play their boston, a game which
vert the countess than to detect in her eyes some expression             spread ideas of independence under a frivolous form over the
which might enlighten him as to her projects. Gothard’s fre-             whole of France; for it was first invented in honor of the Ameri-
quent disappearances, the long rides of his mistress, and her            can insurgents, its very terms applying to the struggle which
evident preoccupation, which, for the last few days, had ap-             Louis XVI. encouraged. While making their “independences”
peared in her face, together with other little signs not to be           and “poverties,” the players kept an eye on the countess, who
hidden in the silence and tranquillity of such a life, had roused        had fallen asleep, overcome by fatigue, with a singular smile

                                                                    51
                                                    An Historical Mystery
on her lips, her last waking thought having been of the terror         line for Germany! Poor darling, perhaps she is thinking of
two words could inspire in the minds of the peaceful com-              the frontier, and that may be the reason why she rides so far
pany by informing the d’Hauteserres that their sons had passed         towards it.”
the preceding night under that roof. What young girl of twenty-          “You are rather giddy, Mademoiselle Goujet,” said the abbe,
three would not have been, as Laurence was, proud to play the          smiling.
part of Destiny? and who would not have felt, as she did, a              “Not at all,” she replied. “I see you all uneasy about the
sense of compassion for those whom she felt to be so far below         goings on of a young girl, and I am explaining them to you.”
her in loyalty?                                                          “Her cousins will submit and return soon; they will all be
  “She sleeps,” said the abbe. “I have never seen her so wea-          rich, and she will end by calming down,” said old
ried.”                                                                 d’Hauteserre.
  “Durieu tells me her mare is almost foundered,” remarked                “God grant it!” said his wife, taking out a gold snuff-box
Madame d’Hauteserre. “Her gun has not been fired; the                  which had again seen the light under the Consulate.
breech is clean; she has evidently not hunted.”                           “There is something stirring in the neighborhood,” re-
  “Oh! that’s neither here nor there,” said the abbe.                  marked Monsieur d’Hauteserre to the abbe. “Malin has been
  “Bah?” cried Mademoiselle Goujet; “when I was twenty-                two days at Gondreville.”
three and saw I should be an old maid all my life, I rushed               “Malin!” cried Laurence, roused by the name, though her
about and fatigued myself in a dozen ways. I understand                sleep was sound.
how the countess can scour the country for hours without                  “Yes,” replied the abbe, “but he leaves to-night; everybody
thinking of the game. It is nearly twelve years now since she          is conjecturing the motive of this hasty visit.”
has seen her cousins, and you know she loves them. Well, if               “That man,” said Laurence, “is the evil genius of our two
I were she, if I were as young and pretty, I’d make a straight         houses.”

                                                                  52
                                                            Balzac
  The countess had been dreaming of her cousins and the                                    CHAPTER VI
young Hauteserres; she saw them in peril. Her beautiful eyes
grew fixed and glassy as her mind thus warned dwelled on                            A DOMICILIARY VISIT
the dangers they were about to incur in Paris. She rose sud-
denly and went to her bedroom without speaking. Her bed-              THE MAYOR, a former huntsman of the house of Simeuse,
room was the best in the house; next came a dressing-room             came occasionally to the chateau, where the d’Hauteserres
and an oratory, in the tower which faced towards the forest.          showed him out of policy, a deference to which he attached
Soon after she had left the salon the dogs barked, the bell of        great value. His name was Goulard; he had married a rich
the small gate rang, and Durieu rushed into the salon with a          woman of Troyes, whose property, which was in the com-
frightened face. “Here is the mayor!” he said. “Something is          mune of Cinq-Cygne, he had further increased by the pur-
the matter.”                                                          chase of a fine abbey and its lands, in which he invested all
                                                                      his savings. The vast abbey of Val-des-Preux, standing about
                                                                      a mile from the chateau, he had turned into a dwelling that
                                                                      was almost as splendid as Gondreville; in it his wife and he
                                                                      were now living like rats in a cathedral. “Ah! Goulard, you
                                                                      have been greedy,” Mademoiselle had said to him with a laugh
                                                                      the first time she received him at Cinq-Cygne. Though greatly
                                                                      attached to the Revolution and coldly received by the count-
                                                                      ess, the mayor always felt himself bound by ties of respect to
                                                                      the Cinq-Cygne and Simeuse families. He therefore shut his
                                                                      eyes to what went on at the chateau. He called shutting his

                                                                 53
                                                    An Historical Mystery
eyes not seeing the portraits of Louis XVI., Marie Antoinette,         made the management of the police into a special ministry.
and the royal children, and those of Monsieur, the Comte               But after his return from Marengo, Bonaparte created the
d’Artois, Cazales and Charlotte Corday, which filled the vari-         prefecture of police, placed Dubois in charge of it, and called
ous panels of the salon; not resenting either the wishes freely        Fouche to the Council of State, naming as his successor in
expressed in his presence for the ruin of the Republic, or the         the ministry a conventional named Cochon, since known as
ridicule flung at the five directors and all the other govern-         Comte de Lapparent. Fouche, who considered the ministry of
mental combinations of that time. The position of this man,            police as by far the most important in a government of broad
who, like many parvenus, having once made his fortune,                 ideas and fixed policy, saw disgrace or at any rate distrust in
reverted to his early faith in the old families, and sought to         the change. After Napoleon became aware of the immense
attach himself to them, was now being made use of by the               superiority of this great statesman, as evidenced in the affair of
two members of the Paris police whose profession had been              the infernal machine and in the conspiracy with which we are
so quickly guessed by Michu, and who, before going to                  now concerned, he returned him to the ministry of police.
Gondreville had reconnoitred the neighborhood.                         Later still, becoming alarmed at the powers Fouche displayed
  The worthy described as the depositary of the best tradi-            during his absence at the time of the affair at Walcheren, the
tions of the old police, and Corentin phoenix of spies, were           Emperor gave that ministry to the Duc de Rovigo, and sent
in fact employed on a secret mission. Malin was not mis-               Fouche (Duc d’Otrante) as governor to the Illyrian prov-
taken in attributing a double purpose to those stars of tragic         inces,—an appointment which was in fact an exile.
farces. But, before seeing them at work, it is advisable to              The singular genius of this man, Fouche, which had the
show the head of which they were the arms. When Bonaparte              power of inspiring Napoleon with a sort of fear, did not re-
became First Consul he found Fouche at the head of the                 veal itself all at once. This obscure conventional, one of the
police. The Revolution had frankly and with good reason                most extraordinary men of our time, and the most misjudged,

                                                                  54
                                                              Balzac
was moulded, as it were, by the whirlwind of events. He                 Talleyrand. At that time neither his former colleagues nor
raised himself under the Directory to the height from which             his present ones had suspected the amplitude of his genius,
men of genius could see the future and judge the past, and              which was purely ministerial, essentially governmental, just
then, like certain commonplace actors who suddenly become               in its forecasts and incredibly sagacious. To-day, every im-
admirable through the light of some vivid perception, he                partial historian perceives that Napoleon’s inordinate self-
gave proofs of his dexterity during the rapid revolution of             love was among the chief causes of his fall, a punishment
the 18th Brumaire. This man with the pallid face, educated              which cruelly expiated his wrong-doing. In the mind of that
to monastic dissimulation, possessing the secrets of the                distrustful sovereign lurked a constant jealousy for his own
montagnards to whom he belonged, and those of the royal-                rising power, which influenced all his actions, and caused
ists to whom he ended by belonging, had slowly and silently             his secret hatred for men of talent, the precious legacy of the
studied the men, the events, and the interests on the politi-           Revolution, with whom he might have made himself a cabi-
cal stage; he penetrated Napoleon’s secrets, he gave him use-           net capable of being a true repository for his thoughts.
ful counsel and precious information. Satisfied with having             Talleyrand and Fouche were not the only ones who gave him
proven his capacity and his usefulness, Fouche was careful              umbrage. The misfortune of usurpers is that those who have
not to disclose himself completely. He wished to remain at              given them a crown are as much their enemies as those from
the head of affairs, but the Emperor’s restless uneasiness about        whom they snatch it. Napoleon’s sovereignty was never con-
him cost him his place.                                                 vincingly felt by those who were once his superiors or his equals,
   The ingratitude or rather the distrust shown by Napoleon             nor by those who still held to the doctrine of rights; none of
after the affair at Walcheren, gives the key-note to the char-          them regarded their oath of allegiance to him as binding.
acter of a man who, unfortunately for himself, was not a                  Malin, an inferior man, incapable of comprehending
great seigneur, and whose conduct was modelled on that of               Fouche’s hidden genius, or of distrusting his own percep-

                                                                   55
                                                  An Historical Mystery
tions, burned himself, like a moth in a candle, by asking him        his eyes so anxiously on the Simeuse brothers. These gentle-
confidentially to send agents to Gondreville, where, he said,        men were now serving in the army of Conde; Mademoiselle
he hoped to obtain certain clues to the conspiracy. Fouche,          de Cinq-Cygne was their cousin; possibly they were in her
without alarming his friend by any questions, asked himself          neighborhood, and were sharers in the conspiracy; if so, it
why Malin was going to Gondreville, and why he did not               would implicate the house of Conde to which they were de-
immediately and without loss of time, give the information           voted. Talleyrand and Fouche were bent on casting light into
he already possessed. The ex-Oratorian, fed from his youth           this dark corner of the conspiracy of 1803. All these consid-
up on trickery, and well aware of the double part played by a        erations Fouche saw at a glance, rapidly and with great clear-
good many of the conventionals, said to himself: “From               ness. But between Malin, Talleyrand, and himself there were
whom is Malin likely to obtain information when we our-              strong ties which forced him to the utmost circumspection,
selves know little or nothing?” Fouche concluded therefore           and made him anxious to know the exact state of things
that there was some either latent or prospective collusion,          within the walls of Gondreville. Corentin was unreservedly
and took care to say nothing about it to the First Consul. He        attached to Fouche, just as Monsieur de la Besnardiere was
preferred to make Malin his instrument rather than destroy           to Talleyrand, Gentz to Monsieur de Metternich, Dundas to
him. It was Fouche’s habit to keep to himself a good part of         Pitt, Duroc to Napoleon, Chavigny to Cardinal Richelieu.
the secrets he detected, and he thus obtained for his own            Corentin was not the counsellor of his master, but his in-
purposes a power over those concerned which was even greater         strument, the Tristan to this Louis XI. of low estate. Fouche
than that of Bonaparte. This duplicity was one of the                had kept him in the ministry of the police when he himself
Emperor’s charges against his minister.                              left it, so as to still keep an eye and a finger in it. It was said
  Fouche knew of the swindling transaction by which Malin            that Corentin belonged to Fouche by some unavowed rela-
became possessed of Gondreville and which led him to keep            tionship, for he rewarded him lavishly after every service.

                                                                56
                                                             Balzac
Corentin had a friend in Peyrade, the old pupil of the last        of instructions he explained to Corentin the otherwise inex-
lieutenant of police; but he kept a good many of his secrets       plicable personality of Michu, who had been watched by the
from him. Fouche gave Corentin an order to explore the             police for the last three years. Corentin’s idea was that of his
chateau of Gondreville, to get the plan of it into his memory,     master: “Malin knows all about the conspiracy—But,” he
and to know every hiding-place within its walls.                   added to himself, “perhaps Fouche does, too; who knows?”
   “We may be obliged to return there,” said the ex-minister,        Corentin, having started for Troyes before Malin, had made
precisely as Napoleon told his lieutenants to explore the field    arrangements with the commandant of the gendarmerie in
of Austerlitz on which he intended to fall back.                   that town, who picked out a number of his most intelligent
   Corentin was also to study Malin’s conduct, discover what       men and placed them under orders of an able captain.
influence he had in the neighborhood, and observe the men          Corentin chose Gondreville as the place of rendezvous, and
he employed. Fouche regarded it as certain that the Simeuse        directed the captain to send some of his men at night in four
brothers were in that part of the country. By cautiously watch-    detachments to different points of the valley of Cinq-Cygne
ing the two officers, who were closely allied with the Prince      at sufficient distance from each other to cause no alarm. These
de Conde, Peyrade and Corentin could obtain precious light         four pickets were to form a square and close in around the
on the ramifications of the conspiracy beyond the Rhine. In        chateau of Cinq-Cygne. By leaving Corentin alone at
any case, however, Corentin received the means, the orders,        Gondreville during his consultation in the fields with Grevin,
and the agents, to surround the chateau of Cinq-Cygne and          Malin had enabled him to fulfil part of Fouche’s orders and
watch the whole region, from the forest of Nodesme into            explore the house. When the Councillor of State returned
Paris. Fouche insisted on the utmost caution, and would only       home he told Corentin so positively that the d’Hauteserre
allow a domiciliary visit to Cinq-Cygne in case Malin gave         and Simeuse brothers were in the neighborhood and prob-
them positive information which made it necessary. By way          ably at Cinq-Cygne that the two agents despatched the cap-

                                                              57
                                                  An Historical Mystery
tain with the rest of his company, who, fortunately for the         lose one of them!”
four gentlemen, crossed the forest on their way to the cha-           “You had better send the mayor to warn them,” said the
teau during the time when Michu was making Violette drunk.          corporal. “He is friendly to them and wouldn’t like to see
Malin had told Corentin and Peyrade of the escape he had            them harmed; they won’t distrust him.”
from lying in wait for him. The two agents related the inci-          Just as Goulard was preparing to go to bed, Corentin, who
dent of the gun they had seen the bailiff load, and Grevin          stopped the vehicle in a little wood, went to his house and
had sent Violette to obtain information as to what was going        told him, confidentially, that in a few moments an emissary
on at Michu’s house. Corentin advised the notary to take            from the government would require him to enter the cha-
Malin to his own house in the little town of Arcis, and let         teau of Cinq-Cygne and arrest the brothers d’Hauteserre and
him sleep there as a measure of precaution. At the moment           Simeuse; and in case they had already disappeared he would
when Michu and his wife were rushing through the forest             have to ascertain if they had slept there the night before,
on their way to Cinq-Cygne, Peyrade and Corentin were               search Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne’s papers, and, possibly,
starting from Gondreville for Cinq-Cygne in a shabby wicker         arrest both the masters and servants of the household.
carriage, drawn by one post-horse driven by the corporal of           “Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne,” said Corentin, “is un-
Arcis, one of the shrewdest men in the Legion, whom the             doubtedly protected by some great personages, for I have
commandant at Troyes advised them to employ.                        received private orders to warn her of this visit, and to do all
  “The surest way to seize them all is to warn them,” said          I can to save her without compromising myself. Once on
Peyrade to Corentin. “At the moment when they are well              the ground, I shall no longer be able to do so, for I am not
frightened and are trying to save their papers or to escape         alone; go to the chateau yourself and warn them.”
we’ll fall upon them like a thunderbolt. The gendarmes sur-           The mayor’s visit at that time of night was all the more
round the chateau now and are as good as a net. We sha’n’t          bewildering to the card-players when they saw the agitation

                                                               58
                                                             Balzac
of his face.                                                           was seen at once.
  “Where is the countess?” were his first words.                         “Mademoiselle, here’s some one,” said Gothard, seeing a
  “She has gone to bed,” said Madame d’Hauteserre.                     woman.
  The mayor, incredulous, listened to noises that were heard             “Hush!” said Marthe, in a low voice. “Come down and
on the upper floor.                                                    speak to me.”
  “What is the matter with you, Goulard?” said Monsieur                  Gothard was in the garden in less time than a bird would
d’Hauteserre.                                                          have taken to fly down from a tree.
  Goulard was dumb with surprise as he noted the tranquil                “In a minute the chateau will be surrounded by the
ease of the faces about him. Observing the peaceful and in-            gendarmerie. Saddle mademoiselle’s horse without making
nocent game of cards which he had thus interrupted, he was             any noise and take it down through the breach in the moat
unable to imagine what the Parisian police meant by their              between the stables and this tower.”
suspicions.                                                              Marthe quivered when she saw Laurence, who had fol-
  At that moment Laurence, kneeling in her oratory, was                lowed Gothard, standing beside her.
praying fervently for the success of the conspiracy. She prayed          “What is it?” asked Laurence, quietly.
to God to send help and succor to the murderers of                       “The conspiracy against the First Consul is discovered,”
Bonaparte. She implored Him ardently to destroy that fatal             replied Marthe, in a whisper. “My husband, who seeks to
being. The fanaticism of Harmodius, Judith, Jacques Clem-              save your two cousins, sends me to ask you to come and
ent, Ankarstroem, of Charlotte Corday and Limoelan, in-                speak to him.”
spired this pure and virgin spirit. Catherine was preparing              Laurence drew back and looked at Marthe. “Who are you?”
the bed, Gothard was closing the blinds, when Marthe Michu             she said.
coming under the windows flung a pebble on the glass and                 “Marthe Michu.”

                                                                  59
                                                  An Historical Mystery
  “I do not know what you want of me,” replied the count-            the abbe exchanged glances which contained the melancholy
ess, coldly.                                                         thought: “Farewell to all our peace! Laurence is conspiring;
  “Take care, you will kill them. Come with me, I implore            she will be the death of her cousins.”
you in the Simeuse name,” said Marthe, clasping her hands              “But what do you really mean?” said Monsieur d’Hauteserre
and stretching them towards Laurence. “Have you papers               to the mayor.
here which may compromise you? If so, destroy them. From               “The chateau is surrounded. You are about to receive a
the heights over there my husband has just seen the silver-          domiciliary visit. If your sons are here tell them to escape,
laced hats and the muskets of the gendarmerie.”                      and the Simeuse brothers too, if they are with them.”
  Gothard had already clambered to the hay-loft and seen               “My sons!” exclaimed Madame d’Hauteserre, stupefied.
the same sight; he heard in the stillness of the evening the           “We have seen no one,” said Monsieur d’Hauteserre.
sound of their horses’ hoofs. Down he slipped into the stable          “So much the better,” said Goulard; “but I care too much
and saddled his mistress’s mare, whose feet Catherine, at a          for the Cinq-Cygne and Simeuse families to let any harm
word from the lad, muffled in linen.                                 come to them. Listen to me. If you have any compromising
  “Where am I to go?” said Laurence to Marthe, whose look            papers—”
and language bore the unmistakable signs of sincerity.                 “Papers!” repeated the old gentleman.
  “Through the breach,” she replied; “my noble husband is              “Yes, if you have any, burn them at once,” said the mayor.
there. You shall learn the value of a ‘Judas’!”                      “I’ll go and amuse the police agents.”
  Catherine went quickly into the salon, picked up the hat,            Goulard, whose object was to run with the royalist hare
veil, whip, and gloves of her mistress, and disappeared. This        and hold with the republican hounds, left the room; at that
sudden apparition and action were so striking a commen-              moment the dogs barked violently.
tary on the mayor’s inquiry that Madame d’Hauteserre and               “There is no longer time,” said the abbe, “here they come!

                                                                60
                                                               Balzac
But who is to warn the countess? Where is she?”                          sent the mayor to warn you. Distrust my colleague and look
  “Catherine didn’t come for her hat and whip to make rel-               to me. I can save every one of you.”
ics of them,” remarked Mademoiselle Goujet.                                “But what is it all about?” said Mademoiselle Goujet.
  Goulard tried to detain the two agents for a few moments,                “A matter of life and death; you must know that,” replied
assuring them of the perfect ignorance of the family at Cinq-            Corentin.
Cygne.                                                                     Madame d’Hauteserre fainted. To Mademoiselle Goujet’s
  “You don’t know these people!” said Peyrade, laughing at               great astonishment and Corentin’s disappointment,
him.                                                                     Laurence’s room was empty. Certain that no one could have
  The two agents, insinuatingly dangerous, entered the house             escaped from the park or the chateau, for all the issues were
at once, followed by the corporal from Arcis and one gen-                guarded, Corentin stationed a gendarme in every room and
darme. The sight of them paralyzed the peaceful card-players,            ordered others to search the farm buildings, stables, and sheds.
who kept their seats at the table, terrified by such a display of        Then he returned to the salon, where Durieu and his wife
force. The noise produced by a dozen gendarmes whose horses              and the other servants had rushed in the wildest excitement.
were stamping on the terrace, was heard without.                         Peyrade was studying their faces with his little blue eye, cold
  “I do not see Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne,” said Corentin.              and calm in the midst of the uproar. Just as Corentin reap-
  “She is probably asleep in her bedroom,” said Monsieur                 peared alone (Mademoiselle Goujet remaining behind to take
d’Hauteserre.                                                            care of Madame d’Hauteserre) the tramp of horses was heard,
  “Come with me, ladies,” said Corentin, turning to pass                 and presently the sound of a child’s weeping. The horses
through the ante-chamber and up the staircase, followed by               entered by the small gate; and the general suspense was put
Mademoiselle Goujet and Madame d’Hauteserre. “Rely upon                  an end to by a corporal appearing at the door of the salon
me,” he whispered to the old lady. “I am in your interests. I            pushing Gothard, whose hands were tied, and Catherine

                                                                    61
                                                     An Historical Mystery
whom he led to the agents.                                                                  CHAPTER VII
  “Here are some prisoners,” he said; “that little scamp was
escaping on horseback.”                                                                   A FOREST NOOK
  “Fool!” said Corentin, in his ear, “why didn’t you let him
alone? You could have found out something by following                  A BREACH HAS ALWAYS A CAUSE AND A PURPOSE. Here is the
him.”                                                                   explanation of how the one which led from the tower called
  Gothard had chosen to burst into tears and behave like an             that of Mademoiselle and the stables came to be made. After
idiot. Catherine took an attitude of artless innocence which            his installation as Laurence’s guardian at Cinq-Cygne old
made the old agent reflective. The pupil of Lenoir, after con-          d’Hauteserre converted a long ravine, through which the
sidering the two prisoners carefully, and noting the vacant air         water of the forest flowed into the moat, into a roadway be-
of the old gentleman whom he took to be sly, the intelligent            tween two tracts of uncultivated land belonging to the cha-
eye of the abbe who was still fingering the cards, and the utter        teau, by merely planting out in it about a hundred walnut
stupefaction of the servants and Durieu, approached Corentin            trees which he found ready in the nursery. In eleven years
and whispered in his ear, “We are not dealing with ninnies.”            these trees had grown and branched so as to nearly cover the
   Corentin answered with a look at the card-table; then he             road, hidden already by steep banks, which ran into a little
added, “They were playing at boston! Mademoiselle’s bed                 wood of thirty acres recently purchased. When the chateau
was just being made for the night; she escaped in a hurry; it           had its full complement of inhabitants they all preferred to
is a regular surprise; we shall catch them.”                            take this covered way through the breach to the main road
                                                                        which skirted the park walls and led to the farm, rather than
                                                                        go round by the entrance. By dint of thus using it the breach
                                                                        in the sides of the moat had gradually been widened on both

                                                                   62
                                                              Balzac
sides, with all the less scruple because in this nineteenth cen-        dear for this! what a time it took to make him drunk! What
tury of ours moats are no longer of the slightest use, and              can be done?”
Laurence’s guardian had often talked of putting this one to                He heard the detachment that was coming through the
some other purpose. The constant crumbling away of the                  forest reach the iron gates and turn into the main road, where
earth and stones and gravel had ended by filling up the ditch,          before long it would meet the squad coming up from the
so that only after heavy rains was the causeway thus con-               other direction.
structed covered. But the bank was still so steep that it was              “Still five or six minutes!” he said.
difficult to make a horse descend it, and even more difficult              At that instant the countess appeared. Michu took her with
to get him up upon the main road. Horses, however, seem in              a firm hand and pushed her into the covered way.
times of peril to share their masters’ thought.                            “Keep straight before you! Lead her to where my horse is,”
  While the young countess was hesitating to follow Marthe,             he said to his wife, “and remember that gendarmes have ears.”
and asking explanations, Michu, from his vantage-ground                    Seeing Catherine, who carried the hat and whip, and
watched the closing in of the gendarmes and understood                  Gothard leading the mare, the man, keen-witted in presence
their plan. He grew desperate as time went by and the count-            of danger, bethought himself of playing the gendarmes a trick
ess did not come to him. A squad of gendarmes were march-               as useful as the one he had just played Violette. Gothard had
ing along the park wall and stationing themselves as senti-             forced the mare to mount the bank.
nels, each man being near enough to communicate with those                 “Her feet muffled! I thank thee, boy,” exclaimed the bai-
on either side of them, by voice and eye. Michu, lying flat             liff.
on his stomach, his ear to earth, gauged, like a red Indian, by            Michu let the mare follow her mistress and took the hat,
the strength of the sounds the time that remained to him.               gloves, and whip from Catherine.
  “I came too late!” he said to himself. “Violette shall pay               “You have sense, boy, you’ll understand me,” he said. “Force

                                                                   63
                                                  An Historical Mystery
your own horse up here, jump on him, and draw the gen-               and it is dangerous to remain here. We need all our free-
darmes after you across the fields towards the farm; get the         dom.”
whole squad to follow you—And you,” he added to                        Michu unfastened his horse and asked the countess to fol-
Catherine, “there are other gendarmes coming up on the road          low him.
from Cinq-Cygne to Gondreville; run in the opposite direc-             “I shall not go a step further,” said Laurence, “unless you
tion to the one Gothard takes, and draw them towards the             give me some proof of the interest you seem to have in us—
forest. Manage so that we shall not be interfered with in the        for, after all, you are Michu.”
covered way.”                                                          “Mademoiselle,” he answered, in a gentle voice; “the part I
  Catherine and the boy, who were destined to give in this           am playing can be explained to you in two words. I am,
affair such remarkable proofs of intelligence, executed the          unknown to the Marquis de Simeuse and his brother, the
manoeuvre in a way to make both detachments of gendarmes             guardian of their property. On this subject I received the last
believe that they held the game. The dim light of the moon           instructions of their late father and their dear mother, my
prevented the pursuers from distinguishing the figure, cloth-        protectress. I have played the part of a virulent Jacobin to
ing, sex, or number of those they followed. The pursuit was          serve my dear young masters. Unhappily, I began this course
based on the maxim, “Always arrest those who are escap-              too late; I could not save their parents.” Here, Michu’s voice
ing,”—the folly of which saying was, as we have seen, ener-          broke down. “Since the young men emigrated I have sent
getically declared by Corentin to the corporal in command.           them regularly the sums they needed to live upon.”
Michu, counting on this instinct of the gendarmes, was able            “Through the house of Breintmayer of Strasburg?” asked
to reach the forest a few moments after the countess, whom           the countess.
Marthe had guided to the appointed place.                              “Yes, mademoiselle; the correspondents of Monsieur Girel
  “Go home now,” he said to Marthe. “The forest is watched           of Troyes, a royalist who, like me, made himself for good

                                                                64
                                                           Balzac
reasons, a Jacobin. The paper which your farmer picked up            one to know best how to warn the young men. That’s the
one evening and which I forced him to surrender, related to          whole of it.”
the affair and would have compromised your cousins. My                 “You are worthy to be a noble,” said Laurence, offering
life no longer belongs to me, but to them, you understand. I         her hand to Michu, who tried to kneel and kiss it. She saw
could not buy in Gondreville. In my position, I should have          his motion and prevented it, saying: “Stand up!” in a tone of
lost my head had the authorities known I had the money. I            voice and with a look which made him amends for all the
preferred to wait and buy it later. But that scoundrel of a          scorn of the last twelve years.
Marion was the slave of another scoundrel, Malin. All the              “You reward me as though I had done all that remains for
same, Gondreville shall once more belong to its rightful             me to do,” he said. “But don’t you hear them, those huzzars
masters. That’s my affair. Four hours ago I had Malin sighted        of the guillotine? Let us go elsewhere.”
by my gun; ha! he was almost gone then! Were he dead, the              He took the mare’s bridle, and led her a little distance.
property would be sold and you could have bought it. In                “Think only of sitting firm,” he said, “and of saving your
case of my death my wife would have brought you a letter             head from the branches of the trees which might strike you
which would have given you the means of buying it. But I             in the face.”
overheard that villain telling his accomplice Grevin—another           Then he mounted his own horse and guided the young
scoundrel like himself—that the Marquis and his brother              girl for half an hour at full gallop; making turns and half
were conspiring against the First Consul, that they were here        turns, and striking into wood-paths, so as to confuse their
in the neighborhood, and that he meant to give them up               traces, until they reached a spot where he pulled up.
and get rid of them so as to keep Gondreville in peace. I              “I don’t know where I am,” said the countess looking about
myself saw the police spies; I laid aside my gun, and I have         her,—”I, who know the forest as well as you do.”
lost no time in coming here, thinking that you must be the             “We are in the heart of it,” he replied. “Two gendarmes are

                                                                65
                                                     An Historical Mystery
after us, but we are quite safe.”                                       a hidden stream which no doubt determined in former days
  The picturesque spot to which the bailiff had guided                  the site of the monastery. The late owner of the title to the
Laurence was destined to be so fatal to the principal person-           forest of Nodesme was the first to recognize the etymology
ages of this drama, and to Michu himself, that it becomes               of the name, which dated back for eight centuries, and to
our duty, as an historian, to describe it. The scene became, as         discover that at one time a monastery had existed in the heart
we shall see hereafter, one of noted interest in the judiciary          of the forest. When the first rumblings of the thunder of the
annals of the Empire.                                                   Revolution were heard, the Marquis de Simeuse, who had
  The forest of Nodesme belonged to the monastery of Notre-             been forced to look into his title by a lawsuit and so learned
Dame. That monastery, seized, sacked, and demolished, had               the above facts as it were by chance, began, with a secret
disappeared entirely, monks and property. The forest, an                intention not difficult to conceive, to search for some re-
object of much cupidity, was taken into the domain of the               mains of the former monastery. The keeper, Michu, to whom
Comtes de Champagne, who mortgaged it later and allowed                 the forest was well known, helped his master in the search,
it to be sold. In the course of six centuries nature covered its        and it was his sagacity as a forester which led to the discovery
ruins with her rich and vigorous green mantle, and effaced              of the site. Observing the trend of the five chief roads of the
them so thoroughly that the existence of one of the finest              forest, some of which were now effaced, he saw that they all
convents was no longer even indicated except by a slight                ended either at the little eminence or by the pond at the foot
eminence shaded by noble trees and circled by thick, impen-             of it, to which points travellers from Troyes, from the valley
etrable shrubbery, which, since 1794, Michu had taken great             of Arcis and that of Cinq-Cygne, and from Bar-sur-Aube
pains to make still more impenetrable by planting the thorny            doubtless came. The marquis wished to excavate the hillock
acacia in all the slight openings between the bushes. A pond            but he dared not employ the people of the neighborhood.
was at the foot of the eminence and showed the existence of             Pressed by circumstances, he abandoned the intention, leav-

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                                                            Balzac
ing in Michu’s mind a strong conviction that the eminence             man habitations for any animal, unless a wild one, to come
had either the treasure or the foundations of the former ab-          there. Convinced that no game was in the marsh and re-
bey. He continued, all alone, this archaeological enterprise;         pelled by the craggy sides of the hills, keepers and hunters
he sounded the earth and discovered a hollowness on the               had never explored or visited this nook, which belonged to a
level of the pond between two trees, at the foot of the only          part of the forest where the timber had not been cut for many
craggy part of the hillock.                                           years and which Michu meant to keep in its full growth when
  One fine night he came to the place armed with a pickaxe,           the time came round to fell it.
and by the sweat of his brow uncovered a succession of cel-              At the further end of the first cellar was a vaulted chamber,
lars, which were entered by a flight of stone steps. The pond,        clean and dry, built with hewn stone, a sort of convent dun-
which was three feet deep in the middle, formed a sort of             geon, such as they called in monastic days the in pace. The
dipper, the handle of which seemed to come from the little            salubrity of the chamber and the preservation of this part of
eminence, and went far to prove that a spring had once is-            the staircase and of the vaults were explained by the presence
sued from the crags, and was now lost by infiltration through         of the spring, which had been enclosed at some time by a
the forest. The marshy shores of the pond, covered with               wall of extraordinary thickness built in brick and cement
aquatic trees, alders, willow, and ash, were the terminus of          like those of the Romans, and received all the waters. Michu
all the wood-paths, the remains of former roads and forest            closed the entrance to this retreat with large stones; then, to
by-ways, now abandoned. The water, flowing from a spring,             keep the secret of it to himself and make it impenetrable to
though apparently stagnant, was covered with large-leaved             others, he made a rule never to enter it except from the
plants and cresses, which gave it a perfectly green surface           wooded height above, by clambering down the crag instead
almost indistinguishable from the shores, which were cov-             of approaching it from the pond.
ered with fine close herbage. The place is too far from hu-              Just as the fugitives arrived, the moon was casting her beau-

                                                                 67
                                                     An Historical Mystery
tiful silvery light on the aged tree-tops above the crag, and             While the countess hid the horses and tied and gagged
flickering on the splendid foliage at the corners of the several        them, Michu removed the stones and opened the entrance
paths, all of which ended here, some with one tree, some                to the caverns. The countess, who thought she knew the for-
with a group of trees. On all sides the eye was irresistibly led        est by heart, was amazed when she descended into the vaulted
along their vanishing perspectives, following the curve of a            chambers. Michu replaced the stones above them with the
wood-path or the solemn stretch of a forest glade flanked by            dexterity of a mason. As he finished, the sound of horses’
a wall of verdure that was nearly black. The moonlight, fil-            feet and the voices of the gendarmes echoed in the darkness;
tering through the branches of the crossways, made the lonely,          but he quietly struck a match, lighted a resinous bit of wood
tranquil waters, where they peeped between the crosses and              and led the countess to the in pace, where there was still a
the lily-pads, sparkle like diamonds. The croaking of the frogs         piece of the candle with which he had first explored the caves.
broke the deep silence of this beautiful forest-nook, the wild          An iron door of some thickness, eaten in several places by
odors of which incited the soul to thoughts of liberty.                 rust, had been put in good order by the bailiff, and could be
   “Are we safe?” said the countess to Michu.                           fastened securely by bars slipping into holes in the wall on
   “Yes, mademoiselle. But we have each some work to do.                either side of it. The countess, half dead with fatigue, sat
Do you go and fasten our horses to the trees at the top of the          down on a stone bench, above which there still remained an
little hill; tie a handkerchief round the mouth of each of              iron ring, the staple of which was embedded in the masonry.
them,” he said, giving her his cravat; “your beast and mine               “We have a salon to converse in,” said Michu. “The gen-
are both intelligent, they will understand they are not to              darmes may prowl as much as they like; the worst they could
neigh. When you have done that, come down the crag di-                  do would be to take our horses.”
rectly above the pond; but don’t let your habit catch any-                “If they do that,” said Laurence, “it would be the death of
where. You will find me below.”                                         my cousins and the Messieurs d’Hauteserre. Tell me now,

                                                                   68
                                                             Balzac
what do you know?”                                                        “My mare is from the stables of the Comte d’Artois,—she
   Michu related what he had overheard Malin say to Grevin.            is the daughter of his finest English horse,” said Laurence;
   “They are already on the road to Paris; they were to enter          “but she has already gone sixty miles, she would drop dead
it to-morrow morning,” said the countess when he had fin-              before you reached them.”
ished.                                                                    “Mine is in good condition,” replied Michu; “and if you
   “Lost!” exclaimed Michu. “All persons entering or leaving           did sixty miles I shall have only thirty to do.”
the barriers are examined. Malin has strong reasons to let my             “Nearer forty,” she said, “they have been walking since dark.
masters compromise themselves; he is seeking to get them               You will overtake them beyond Lagny, at Coupvrai, where
killed out of his way.”                                                they expected to be at daybreak. They are disguised as sail-
   “And I, who don’t know anything of the general plan of              ors, and will enter Paris by the river on some vessel. This,”
the affair,” cried Laurence, “how can I warn Georges, Riviere,         she added, taking half of her mother’s wedding-ring from
and Moreau? Where are they?—However, let us think only                 her finger, “is the only thing which will make them trust
of my cousins and the d’Hauteserres; you must catch up with            you; they have the other half. The keeper of Couvrai is the
them, no matter what it costs.”                                        father of one of their soldiers; he has hidden them tonight in
   “The telegraph goes faster than the best horse,” said Michu;        a hut in the forest deserted by charcoal-burners. They are
“and of all the nobles concerned in this conspiracy your cous-         eight in all, Messieurs d’Hauteserre and four others are with
ins are the closest watched. If I can find them, they must be          my cousins.”
hidden here and kept here till the affair is over. Their poor             “Mademoiselle, no one is looking for the others! let them
father may have had a foreboding when he set me to search              save themselves as they can; we must think only of the Mes-
for this hiding-place; perhaps he felt that his sons would be          sieurs de Simeuse. It is enough just to warn the rest.”
saved here.”                                                              “What! abandon the Hauteserres? never!” she said. “They

                                                                  69
                                                     An Historical Mystery
must all perish or be saved together!”                                  you must not attempt to see them. My wife, or the little one,
  “Only petty noblemen!” remarked Michu.                                shall bring them food twice a week. But, as I can’t be sure of
  “They are only chevaliers, I know that,” she replied, “but            what may happen to me, remember, mademoiselle, in case
they are related to the Cinq-Cygne and Simeuse blood. Save              of trouble, that the main beam in my hay-loft has been bored
them all, and advise them how best to regain this forest.”              with an auger. In the hole, which is plugged with a bit of
  “The gendarmes are here,—don’t you hear them? they are                wood, you will find a plan showing how to reach this spot.
holding a council of war.”                                              The trees which you will find marked with a red dot on the
  “Well, you have twice had luck to-night; go! bring my cous-           plan have a black mark at their foot close to the earth. Each
ins here and hide them in these vaults; they’ll be safe from all        of these trees is a sign-post. At the foot of the third old oak
pursuit—Alas! I am good for nothing!” she cried, with rage;             which stands to the left of each sign-post, two feet in front
“I should be only a beacon to light the enemy—but the po-               of it and buried seven feet in the ground, you will find a
lice will never imagine that my cousins are in the forest if            large metal tube; in each tube are one hundred thousand
they see me at my ease. So the question resolves itself into            francs in gold. These eleven trees—there are only eleven—
this: how can we get five good horses to bring them in six              contain the whole fortune of the Simeuse brothers, now that
hours from Lagny to the forest,—five horses to be killed and            Gondreville has been taken from them.”
hidden in some thicket.”                                                  “It will take a hundred years for the nobility to recover
   “And the money?” said Michu, who was thinking deeply                 from such blows,” said Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, slowly.
as he listened to the young countess.                                     “Is there a pass-word?” asked Michu.
   “I gave my cousins a hundred louis this evening,” she re-              “‘France and Charles’ for the soldiers, ‘Laurence and Louis’
plied.                                                                  for the Messieurs d’Hauteserre and Simeuse. Good God! to
   “I’ll answer for them!” cried Michu. “But once hidden here           think that I saw them yesterday for the first time in eleven

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                                                            Balzac
years, and that now they are in danger of death—and what a            must see him mounted before mounting herself. Tears came
death! Michu,” she said, with a melancholy look, “be as pru-          to the eyes of the stern man as he exchanged a last look with
dent during the next fifteen hours as you have been grand             his young mistress, whose own eyes were tearless.
and devoted during the last twelve years. If disaster were to           “Fool them! yes, he is right!” she said when she heard him no
overtake my cousins now I should die of it—No,” she added,            longer. Then she darted towards Cinq-Cygne at full gallop.
quickly, “I would live long enough to kill Bonaparte.”
  “There will be two of us to do that when all is lost,” said
Michu.
  Laurence took his rough hand and wrung it warmly, as the
English do. Michu looked at his watch; it was midnight.
  “We must leave here at any cost,” he said. “Death to the
gendarme who attempts to stop me! And you, madame la
comtesse, without presuming to dictate, ride back to Cinq-
Cygne as fast as you can. The police are there by this time;
fool them! delay them!”
  The hole once opened, Michu flung himself down with
his ear to the earth; then he rose precipitately. “The gen-
darmes are at the edge of the forest towards Troyes!” he said.
“Ha, I’ll get the better of them yet!”
  He helped the countess to come out, and replaced the stones.
When this was done he heard her soft voice telling him she

                                                                 71
                                                    An Historical Mystery
                    CHAPTER VIII                                       always looked like a servant. Each gazed with a bewildered
                                                                       eye at the gendarmes, in whose clutches Gothard was still
             TRIALS OF THE POLICE                                      sobbing, his hands purple and swollen from the tightness of
                                                                       the cord that bound them. Catherine maintained her atti-
MADAME D’HAUTESERRE, roused by the danger of her sons,                 tude of artless simplicity, which was quite impenetrable. The
and not believing that the Revolution was over, but still fear-        corporal, who, according to Corentin, had committed a great
ing its summary justice, recovered her senses by the violence          blunder in arresting these smaller fry, did not know whether
of the same distress which made her lose them. Led by an               to stay where he was or to depart. He stood pensively in the
agonizing curiosity she returned to the salon, which presented         middle of the salon, his hand on the hilt of his sabre, his eye
a picture worthy of the brush of a genre painter. The abbe,            on the two Parisians. The Durieus, also stupefied, and the
still seated at the card-table and mechanically playing with           other servants of the chateau made an admirable group of
the counters, was covertly observing Corentin and Peyrade,             expressive uneasiness. If it had not been for Gothard’s con-
who were standing together at a corner of the fireplace and            vulsive snifflings those present could have heard the flies fly.
speaking in a low voice. Several times Corentin’s keen eye               When Madame d’Hauteserre, pale and terrified, opened the
met the not less keen glance of the priest; but, like two ad-          door and entered the room, almost carried by Mademoiselle
versaries who knew themselves equally strong, and who re-              Goujet, whose red eyes had evidently been weeping, all faces
turn to their guard after crossing their weapons, each averted         turned to her at once. The two agents hoped as much as the
his eyes the instant they met. The worthy old d’Hauteserre,            household feared to see Laurence enter. This spontaneous
poised on his long thin legs like a heron, was standing beside         movement of both masters and servants seemed produced by
the stout form of the mayor, in an attitude expressive of ut-          the sort of mechanism which makes a number of wooden fig-
ter stupefaction. The mayor, though dressed as a bourgeois,            ures perform the same gesture or wink the same eye.

                                                                  72
                                                            Balzac
  Madame d’Hauteserre advanced by three rapid strides to-               “She? oh, it was Oliver who caught her.”
wards Corentin and said, in a broken voice but violently:               “Where was she going?”
“For pity’s sake, monsieur, tell me what my sons are accused            “Towards Gondreville.”
of. Do you really think they have been here?”                           “They were going in opposite directions?” said Corentin.
  The abbe, who seemed to be saying to himself when he                  “Yes,” replied the gendarme.
saw the old lady, “She will certainly commit some folly,”               “Is that boy the groom, and the girl the maid of the
lowered his eyes.                                                     citizeness Cinq-Cygne?” said Corentin to the mayor.
  “My duty and the mission I am engaged in forbid me to                 “Yes,” replied Goulard.
tell you,” answered Corentin, with a gracious but rather                After Corentin had exchanged a few words with Peyrade
mocking air.                                                          in a whisper, the latter left the room, taking the corporal of
  This refusal, which the detestable politeness of the vulgar         gendarmes with him.
fop seemed to make all the more emphatic, petrified the poor            Just then the corporal of Arcis made his appearance. He
mother, who fell into a chair beside the Abbe Goujet, clasped         went up to Corentin and spoke to him in a low voice: “I
her hands and began to pray.                                          know these premises well,” he said; “I have searched every-
  “Where did you arrest that blubber?” asked Corentin, ad-            where; unless those young fellows are buried, they are not
dressing the corporal and pointing to Laurence’s little hench-        here. We have sounded all the floors and walls with the butt
man.                                                                  end of our muskets.”
  “On the road that leads to the farm along the park walls;             Peyrade, who presently returned, signed to Corentin to
the little scamp had nearly reached the Closeaux woods,”              come out, and then took him to the breach in the moat and
replied the corporal.                                                 showed him the sunken way.
  “And that girl?”                                                      “We have guessed the trick,” said Peyrade.

                                                                 73
                                                       An Historical Mystery
   “And I’ll tell you how it was done,” added Corentin. “That               “Everybody knows she has her freaks,” remarked Catherine;
little scamp and the girl decoyed those idiots of gendarmes               “she looked at the sky before she went to bed, and I think
and thus made time for the game to escape.”                               the glitter of your bayonets in the moonlight puzzled her.
   “We can’t know the truth till daylight,” said Peyrade. “The            She told me she wanted to know if there was going to be
road is damp; I have ordered two gendarmes to barricade it                another revolution.”
top and bottom. We’ll examine it after daylight, and find                   “When did she go?” asked Peyrade.
out by the footsteps who went that way.”                                    “When she saw your guns.”
   “I see a hoof-mark,” said Corentin; “let us go to the stables.”          “Which road did she take?”
   “How many horses do you keep?” said Peyrade, returning                   “I don’t know.”
to the salon with Corentin, and addressing Monsieur                         “There’s another horse missing,” said Corentin.
d’Hauteserre and Goulard.                                                   “The gendarmes—took it—away from me,” said Gothard.
  “Come, monsieur le maire, you know, answer,” cried                        “Where were you going?” said one of them.
Corentin, seeing that that functionary hesitated.                           “I was—following—my mistress to the farm,” sobbed the
  “Why, there’s the countess’s mare, Gothard’s horse, and                 boy.
Monsieur d’Hauteserre’s.”                                                   The gendarme looked towards Corentin as if expecting an
  “There is only one in the stable,” said Peyrade.                        order. But Gothard’s speech was evidently so true and yet so
  “Mademoiselle is out riding,” said Durieu.                              false, so perfectly innocent and so artful that the two Pari-
  “Does she often ride about at this time of night?” said the             sians again looked at each other as if to echo Peyrade’s former
libertine Peyrade, addressing Monsieur d’Hauteserre.                      words: “They are not ninnies.”
  “Often,” said the good man, simply. “Monsieur le maire                    Monsieur d’Hauteserre seemed incapable of a word; the
can tell you that.”                                                       mayor was bewildered; the mother, imbecile from maternal

                                                                     74
                                                              Balzac
fears, was putting questions to the police agents that were             the beds of their father and mother, and Mademoiselle de
idiotically innocent; the servants had been roused from their           Cinq-Cygne, or those of the servants; or they must have spent
sleep. Judging by these trifling signs, and these diverse char-         the night in the park. There is not a trace of their presence.”
acters, Corentin came to the conclusion that his only real                “Who could have warned them?” said Corentin, to Peyrade.
adversary was Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. Shrewd and                    “No one but the First Consul, Fouche, the ministers, the
dexterous as the police may be, they are always under certain           prefect of police, and Malin knew anything about it.”
disadvantages. Not only are they forced to discover all that is           “We must set spies in the neighborhood,” whispered
known to a conspirator, but they must also suppose and test             Peyrade.
a great number of things before they hit upon the right one.              “And watch the spies,” said the abbe, who smiled as he
The conspirator is always thinking of his own safety, whereas           overheard the word and guessed all.
the police is only on duty at certain hours. Were it not for              “Good God!” thought Corentin, replying to the abbe’s smile
treachery and betrayals, nothing would be easier than to con-           with one of his own; “there is but one intelligent being here,—
spire successfully. The conspirator has more mind concen-               he’s the one to come to an understanding with; I’ll try him.”
trated upon himself than the police can bring to bear with                “Gentlemen—” said the mayor, anxious to give some proof
all its vast facilities of action. Finding themselves stopped           of devotion to the First Consul and addressing the two agents.
short morally, as they might be physically by a door which                “Say ‘citizens’; the Republic still exists,” interrupted
they expected to find open being shut in their faces, Corentin          Corentin, looking at the priest with a quizzical air.
and Peyrade saw they were tricked and misled, without know-               “Citizens,” resumed the mayor, “just as I entered this sa-
ing by whom.                                                            lon and before I had opened my mouth Catherine rushed in
  “I assert,” said the corporal of Arcis, in their ear, “that if        and took her mistress’s hat, gloves, and whip.”
the four young men slept here last night it must have been in             A low murmur of horror came from the breasts of all the

                                                                   75
                                                    An Historical Mystery
household except Gothard. All eyes but those of the agent              means, and members. Don’t confound me, I beg of you, with
and the gendarmes were turned threateningly on Goulard,                the wretch who is with me. He belongs to the police; but I
the informer, seeming to dart flames at him.                           am honorably attached to the Consular cabinet, I am there-
  “Very good, citizen mayor,” said Peyrade. “We see it all             fore behind the scenes. The ruin of the Simeuse brothers is
plainly. Some one” (this with a glance of evident distrust at          not desired. Though Malin would like to see them shot, the
Corentin) “warned the citizeness Cinq-Cygne in time.”                  First Consul, if they are here and have come without evil
  “Corporal, handcuff that boy,” said Corentin, to the gen-            intentions, wishes them to be warned out of danger, for he
darme, “and take him away by himself. And shut up that                 likes good soldiers. The agent who accompanies me has all
girl, too,” pointing to Catherine. “As for you, Peyrade, search        the powers, I, apparently, am nothing. But I see plainly what
for papers,” adding in his ear, “Ransack everything, spare             is hatching. The agent is pledged to Malin, who has doubt-
nothing.—Monsieur l’abbe,” he said, confidentially, “I have            less promised him his influence, an office, and perhaps money
an important communication to make to you”; and he took                if he finds the Simeuse brothers and delivers them up. The
him into the garden.                                                   First Consul, who is a really great man, never favors selfish
  “Listen to me attentively, monsieur,” he went on; “you seem          schemes—I don’t want to know if those young men are here,”
to have the mind of a bishop, and (no one can hear us) you             he added, quickly, observing the abbe’s gesture, “but I wish
will understand me. I have no longer any hope except through           to tell you that there is only one way to save them. You know
you of saving these families, who, with the greatest folly, are        the law of the 6th Floreal, year X., which amnestied all the
letting themselves roll down a precipice where no one can              emigres who were still in foreign countries on condition that
save them. The Messieurs Simeuse and d’Hauteserre have                 they returned home before the 1st Vendemiaire of the year
been betrayed by one of those infamous spies whom govern-              XI., that is to say, in September of last year. But the Mes-
ments introduce into all conspiracies to learn their objects,          sieurs Simeuse having, like the Messieurs d’Hauteserre, served

                                                                  76
                                                              Balzac
in the army of Conde, they come into the category of excep-             a throne he must needs strangle Liberty. Keep the matter a
tions to this law. Their presence in France is therefore crimi-         secret between us. This is what I will do; I will stay here till
nal, and suffices, under the circumstances in which we are,             to-morrow and be blind; but beware of the agent; that cursed
to make them suspected of collusion in a horrible plot. The             Provencal is the devil’s own valet; he has the ear of Fouche
First Consul saw the error of this exception which has made             just as I have that of the First Consul.”
enemies for his government, and he wishes the Messieurs                   “If the Messieurs Simeuse are here,” said the abbe, “I would
Simeuse to know that no steps will be taken against them, if            give ten pints of my blood and my right arm to save them;
they will send him a petition saying that they have re-en-              but if Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne is in the secret she has
tered France intending to submit to the laws, and agreeing              not—and this I swear on my eternal salvation—betrayed it
to take oath to the Constitution. You can understand that               in any way, neither has she done me the honor to consult
the document ought to be in my hands before they are ar-                me. I am now very glad of her discretion, if discretion there
rested, and be dated some days earlier. I would then be the             be. We played cards last night as usual, at boston, in almost
bearer of it—I do not ask you where those young men are,”               complete silence, until half-past ten o’clock, and we neither
he said again, seeing another gesture of denial from the priest.        saw nor heard anything. Not a child can pass through this
“We are, unfortunately, sure of finding them; the forest is             solitary valley without the whole community knowing it,
guarded, the entrances to Paris and the frontiers are all               and for the last two weeks no one has come from other places.
watched. Pray listen to me; if these gentlemen are between              Now the d’Hauteserre and the Simeuse brothers would make
the forest and Paris they must be taken; if they are in Paris           a party of four. Old d’Hauteserre and his wife have submit-
they will be found; if they retreat to the frontier they will           ted to the present government, and they have made all imag-
still be arrested. The First Consul likes the ci-devants, and           inable efforts to persuade their sons to return to France; they
cannot endure the republicans—simple enough; if he wants                wrote to them again yesterday. I can only say, upon my soul

                                                                   77
                                                     An Historical Mystery
and conscience, that your visit has alone shaken my firm                   “Well! Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne is incapable of base-
belief that these young men are living in Germany. Between              ness,” cried the abbe.
ourselves, there is no one here, except the young countess,                “Monsieur l’abbe,” replied Corentin, “let me tell you this;
who does not do justice to the eminent qualities of the First           there is for us (meaning you and me) proof positive of her
Consul.”                                                                guilt; but there is not enough for the law. You see she took
  “Fox!” thought Corentin. “Well, if those young men are                flight when we came; I sent the mayor to warn her.”
shot,” he said, aloud; “it is because their friends have willed            “Yes, but for one who is so anxious to save them, you fol-
it—I wash my hands of the affair.”                                      lowed rather closely on his heels,” said the abbe.
  He had led the abbe to a part of the garden which lay in                 At those words the two men looked at each other, and all
the moonlight, and as he said the last words he looked at               was said. Each belonged to those profound anatomists of
him suddenly. The priest was greatly distressed, but his man-           thought to whom a mere inflexion of the voice, a look, a
ner was that of a man surprised and wholly ignorant.                    word suffices to reveal a soul, just as the Indians track their
  “Understand this, monsieur l’abbe,” resumed Corentin;                 enemies by signs invisible to European eyes.
“the right of these young men to the estate of Gondreville                “I expected to draw something out of him, and I have only
will render them doubly criminal in the eyes of the middle              betrayed myself,” thought Corentin.
class. I’d like to see them put faith in God and not in his               “Ha! the sly rogue!” thought the priest.
saints—”                                                                  Midnight rang from the old church clock just as Corentin
  “Is there really a plot?” asked the abbe, simply.                     and the abbe re-entered the salon. The opening and shut-
  “Base, odious, cowardly, and so contrary to the generous              ting of doors and closets could be heard from the bedrooms
spirit of the nation,” replied Corentin, “that it will meet with        above. The gendarmes pulled open the beds; Peyrade, with
universal opprobrium.”                                                  the quick perception of a spy, handled and sounded every-

                                                                   78
                                                          Balzac
thing. Such desecration excited both fear and indignation           said,” remarked Corentin, continuing the inductions of his
among the faithful servants of the house, who still stood           colleague. “No doubt he has only postponed his shot to pre-
motionless about the salon. Monsieur d’Hauteserre ex-               vent an evil he thinks worse than the loss of Gondreville.”
changed looks of commiseration with his wife and Made-                “He knew what we were the moment he laid eyes on us,”
moiselle Goujet. A species of horrible curiosity kept every         said Peyrade. “I thought then that he was amazingly intelli-
one on the qui vive. Peyrade at length came down, holding           gent for a peasant.”
in his hand a sandal-wood box which had probably been                 “That proves that he is always on his guard,” replied
brought from China by Admiral de Simeuse. This pretty               Corentin. “But, mind you, my old man, don’t let us make a
casket was flat and about the size of a quarto volume.              mistake. Treachery stinks in the nostrils, and primitive folks
  Peyrade made a sign to Corentin and took him into the             do scent it from afar.”
embrasure of a window.                                                “But that’s our strength,” said the Provencal.
  “I’ve an idea!” he said, “that Michu, who was ready to pay          “Call the corporal of Arcis,” cried Corentin to one of the
Marion eight hundred thousand francs in gold for                    gendarmes. “I shall send him at once to Michu’s house,” he
Gondreville, and who evidently meant to shoot Malin yes-            added to Peyrade.
terday, is the man who is helping the Simeuse brothers. His           “Our ear, Violette, is there,” said Peyrade.
motive in threatening Marion and aiming at Malin must be              “We started without getting news from him. Two of us are
the same. I thought when I saw him that he was capable of           not enough; we ought to have had Sabatier with us—Cor-
ideas; evidently he has but one; he discovered what was go-         poral,” he said, when the gendarme appeared, taking him
ing on and he must have come here to warn them.”                    aside with Peyrade, “don’t let them fool you as they did the
  “Probably Malin talked about the conspiracy to his friend         Troyes corporal just now. We think Michu is in this busi-
the notary, and Michu from his ambush overheard what was            ness. Go to his house, put your eye on everything, and bring

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                                                      An Historical Mystery
word of the result.”                                                     terror. The police man has the instincts and emotions of a
  “One of my men heard horses in the forest just as they                 hunter: but where the one employs his powers of mind and
arrested the little groom; I’ve four fine fellows now on the             body in killing a hare, a partridge, or a deer, the other is
track of whoever is hiding there,” replied the gendarme.                 thinking of saving the State, or a king, and of winning a
  He left the room, and the gallop of his horse which echoed             large reward. So the hunt for men is superior to the other
on the paved courtyard died rapidly away.                                class of hunting by all the distance that there is between ani-
  “One thing is certain,” said Corentin to himself, “either              mals and human beings. Moreover, a spy is forced to lift the
they have gone to Paris or they are retreating to Germany.”              part he plays to the level and the importance of the interests
  He sat down, pulled a note-book from the pocket of his                 to which he is bound. Without looking further into this call-
spencer, wrote two orders in pencil, sealed them, and made a             ing, it is easy to see that the man who follows it puts as much
sign to one of the gendarmes to come to him.                             passionate ardor into his chase as another man does into the
  “Be off at full gallop to Troyes, wake up the prefect, and             pursuit of game. Therefore the further these men advanced
tell him to start the telegraph as soon as there’s light enough.”        in their investigations the more eager they became; but the
  The gendarme departed. The meaning of this movement                    expression of their faces and their eyes continued calm and
and Corentin’s intentions were so evident that the hearts of             cold, just as their ideas, their suspicions, and their plans re-
the household sank within them; but this new anxiety was                 mained impenetrable. To any one who watched the effects
additional to another that was now martyrizing them; their               of the moral scent, if we may so call it, of these bloodhounds
eyes were fixed on the sandal-wood box! All the while the                on the track of hidden facts, and who noted and understood
two agents were talking together they were each taking note              the movements of canine agility which led them to strike the
of those eager looks. A sort of cold anger stirred the unfeel-           truth in their rapid examination of probabilities, there was
ing hearts of these men who relished the power of inspiring              in it all something actually horrifying. How and why should

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                                                            Balzac
men of genius fall so low when it was in their power to be so         at once at the door of the middle tower. A convulsion like
high? What imperfection, what vice, what passion debases              that which a thunderbolt might produce shook the specta-
them? Does a man become a police-agent as he becomes a                tors when Laurence, the trailing of whose riding-habit an-
thinker, writer, statesmen, painter, general, on the condition        nounced her coming, entered the room. The servants hastily
of knowing nothing but how to spy, as the others speak,               formed into two lines to let her pass.
write, govern, paint, and fight? The inhabitants of the cha-            In spite of her rapid ride, the girl had felt the full anguish
teau had but one wish,—that the thunderbolts of heaven                the discovery of the conspiracy must needs cause her. All her
might fall upon these miscreants; they were athirst for ven-          hopes were overthrown! she had galloped through ruins as
geance; and had it not been for the presence, up to this time,        her thoughts turned to the necessity of submission to the
of the gendarmes there would undoubtedly have been an                 Consular government. Were it not for the danger which
outbreak.                                                             threatened the four gentlemen, and which served as a tonic
  “No one, I suppose, has the key of this box?” said the cyni-        to conquer her weariness and her despair, she would have
cal Peyrade, questioning the family as much by the move-              dropped asleep on the way. The mare was almost killed in
ment of his huge red nose as by his words.                            her haste to reach the chateau, and stand between her cous-
  The Provencal noticed, not without fear, that the guards            ins and death. As all present looked at the heroic girl, pale,
were no longer present; he and Corentin were alone with the           her features drawn, her veil aside, her whip in her hand, stand-
family. The younger man drew a small dagger from his pocket,          ing on the threshold of the door, whence her burning glance
and began to force the lock of the box. Just then the desper-         grasped the whole scene and comprehended it, each knew
ate galloping of a horse was heard upon the road and then             from the almost imperceptible motion which crossed the
upon the pavement by the lawn; but most horrible of all was           soured and bittered face of Corentin, that the real adversar-
the fall and sighing of the animal, which seemed to drop all          ies had met. A terrible duel was about to begin.

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                                                      An Historical Mystery
  Noticing the box, now in the hands of Corentin, the count-             his eyes are stolid with an indifference which he holds as a
ess raised her whip and sprang rapidly towards him. Striking             barrier against the world of fools who do not understand
his hands with so violent a blow that the casket fell to the             him; his forehead is adamant under insult; he pursues his
ground, she seized it, flung it into the middle of the fire, and         ends like a reptile whose carapace is fractured only by a can-
stood with her back to the chimney in a threatening attitude             nonball; but (like that reptile) he is all the more furious when
before either of the agents recovered from their surprise. The           the blow does reach him, because he believed his armor in-
scorn which flamed from her eyes, her pale brow, her disdain-            vulnerable. The lash of the whip upon his fingers was to
ful lips, were even more insulting than the haughty action               Corentin, pain apart, the cannonball that cracked the shell.
which treated Corentin as though he were a venomous rep-                 Coming from that magnificent and noble girl, this action,
tile. Old d’Hauteserre felt himself once more a cavalier; all his        emblematic of her disgust, humiliated him, not only in the
blood rushed to his face, and he grieved that he had no sword.           eyes of the people about him, but in his own.
The servants trembled for an instant with joy. The vengeance                Peyrade sprang to the hearth, caught Laurence’s foot, raised
they had called down upon these men had come. But their joy              it, and compelled her, out of modesty, to throw herself on
was driven back within their souls by a terrible fear; the gen-          the sofa, where she had lately lain asleep. The scene, like
darmes were still heard coming and going in the garrets.                 other contrasts in human things, was burlesque in the midst
   The spy—noun of strength, under which all shades of the               of terror. Peyrade scorched his hand as he dashed it into the
police are confounded, for the public has never chosen to                fire to seize the box; but he got it, threw it on the floor and
specify in language the varieties of those who compose this              sat down upon it. These little actions were done with great
dispensary of social remedies so essential to all governments—           rapidity and without a word being uttered. Corentin, recov-
the spy has this curious and magnificent quality: he never               ering from the pain of the blow, caught Mademoiselle de
becomes angry; he possesses the Christian humility of a priest;          Cinq-Cygne by both hands, and held her.

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                                                           Balzac
  “Do not compel me to use force against you,” he said,              of his apricot breeches, opened the two sides of the box as if
with withering politeness.                                           it had been a book, and slid three letters and two locks of
  Peyrade’s action had extinguished the fire by the natural          hair upon the card-table. He was about to smile at Corentin
process of suppressing the air.                                      when he perceived that the locks were of two shades of gray.
  “Gendarmes! here!” he cried, still occupying his ridiculous        Corentin released Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne’s hands and
position.                                                            went up to the table to read the letter from which the hair
  “Will you promise to behave yourself?” said Corentin, in-          had fallen.
solently, addressing Laurence, and picking up his dagger, but           Laurence rose, moved to the table beside the spies, and
not committing the great fault of threatening her with it.           said:—”Read it aloud; that shall be your punishment.”
  “The secrets of that box do not concern the government,”              As the two men continued to read to themselves, she her-
she answered, with a tinge of melancholy in her tone and             self read out the following words:—
manner. “When you have read the letters it contains you
will, in spite of your infamy, feel ashamed of having read           Dear Laurence,—My husband and I have heard of your
them—that is, if you can still feel shame at anything,” she          noble conduct on the day of our arrest. We know that you
added, after a pause.                                                love our dear twins as much, almost, as we love them
  The abbe looked at her as if to say, “For God’s sake, be           ourselves. Therefore it is with you that we leave a token
calm!”                                                               which will be both precious and sad to them. The execu-
  Peyrade rose. The bottom of the box, which had been nearly         tioner has come to cut our hair, for we are to die in a few
burned through, left a mark upon the floor; the lid was              moments; he has promised to put into your hands the
scorched and the sides gave way. The grotesque Scaevola,             only remembrance we are able to leave to our beloved
who had offered to the god of the Police and Terror the seat         orphans. Keep these last remains of us and give them to

                                                                83
                                                      An Historical Mystery
our sons in happier days. We have kissed these locks of                             1794, Andernach. Before the battle.
hair and have laid our blessing upon them. Our last thought
will be of our sons, of you, and of God. Love them,                      My dear Laurence,—I love you for life, and I wish you to
Laurence.                                                                know it. But you ought also to know, in case I die, that my
                                                                         brother, Paul-Marie, loves you as much as I love you. My
        Berthe de Cinq-Cygne. Jean de Simeuse.                           only consolation in dying would be the thought that you
                                                                         might some day make my brother your husband without
  Tears came to the eyes of all the household as they listened           being forced to see me die of jealousy—which must surely
to the letter.                                                           happen if, both of us being alive, you preferred him to me.
  Laurence looked at the agents with a petrifying glance and             After all, that preference seems natural, for he is, per-
said, in a firm voice:—                                                  haps, more worthy of your love than I—
  “You have less pity than the executioner.”
  Corentin quietly folded the hair in the letter, laid the letter                                Marie-Paul.
aside on the table, and put a box of counters on the top of it
as if to prevent its blowing away. His coolness in the midst of            “Here is the other letter,” she said, with the color in her
the general emotion was horrible.                                        cheeks.
  Peyrade unfolded the other letters.
  “Oh, as for those,” said Laurence, “they are very much                               Andernach. Before the battle.
alike. You hear the will; you can now hear of its fulfilment.
In future I shall have no secrets from any one.”                         My kind Laurence,—My heart is sad; but Marie-Paul has
                                                                         a gayer nature, and will please you more than I am able

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                                                              Balzac
to do. Some day you will have to choose between us—                       At the mere movement of her lips and the glance which
well, though I love you passionately—                                   Laurence cast upon Corentin, the abbe guessed what that
                                                                        great artist was saying, and he made her a sign to be distrust-
  “You are corresponding with emigres,” said Peyrade, inter-            ful, which no one intercepted but Goulard. Peyrade struck
rupting Laurence, and holding the letters between himself               the cover of the box to see if there were a double top.
and the light to see if they contained between the lines any              “Don’t break it!” she exclaimed, taking the cover from him.
treasonable writing with invisible ink.                                   She took a pin, pushed the head of one of the carved fig-
  “Yes,” replied Laurence, folding the precious letters, the            ures, and the two halves of the top, joined by a spring, opened.
paper of which was already yellow with time. “But by virtue             In the hollow half lay miniatures of the Messieurs de Simeuse,
of what right do you presume to violate my dwelling and my              in the uniform of the army of Conde, two portraits on ivory
personal liberty?”                                                      done in Germany. Corentin, who felt himself in presence of
  “Ah, that’s the point!” cried Peyrade. “By what right, in-            an adversary worthy of his efforts, called Peyrade aside into a
deed!—it is time to let you know it, beautiful aristocrat,” he          corner of the room and conferred with him.
added, taking a warrant from his pocket, which came from                  “How could you throw that into the fire?” said the abbe,
the minister of justice and was countersigned by the minister           speaking to Laurence and pointing to the letter of the mar-
of the interior. “See, the authorities have their eye upon you.”        quise which enclosed the locks of hair.
  “We might also ask you,” said Corentin, in her ear, “by                 For all answer the young girl shrugged her shoulders sig-
what right you harbor in this house the assassins of the First          nificantly. The abbe comprehended then that she had made
Consul. You have applied your whip to my hands in a man-                the sacrifice to mislead the agents and gain time; he raised
ner that authorizes me to take my revenge upon your cous-               his eyes to heaven with a gesture of admiration.
ins, whom I came here to save.”                                           “Where did they arrest Gothard, whom I hear crying?”

                                                                   85
                                                       An Historical Mystery
she asked him, loud enough to be overheard.                                Madame d’Hauteserre, who, from the moment of Laurence’s
  “I don’t know,” said the abbe.                                           entrance, had studied her with the anxiety of a mother, rose,
  “Did he reach the farm?”                                                 took her by the arm, led her aside, and said in a low voice,
  “The farm!” whispered Peyrade to Corentin. “Let us send                  “Have you seen them?”
there.”                                                                      “Do you think I could have let your sons be under this
  “No,” said Corentin; “that girl never trusted her cousins’ safety        roof without your knowing it?” replied Laurence. “Durieu,”
to a farmer. She is playing with us. Do as I tell you, so that we          she added, “see if it is possible to save my poor Stella; she is
mayn’t have to leave here without detecting something, after               still breathing.”
committing the great blunder of coming here at all.”                         “She must have gone a great distance,” said Corentin.
  Corentin stationed himself before the fire, lifting the long               “Forty miles in three hours,” she answered, addressing the
pointed skirts of his coat to warm himself and assuming the                abbe, who watched her with amazement. “I started at half-
air, manner, and tone of a gentleman who was paying a visit.               past nine, and it was well past one when I returned.”
  “Mesdames, you can go to bed, and the servants also. Mon-                  She looked at the clock which said half-past two.
sieur le maire, your services are no longer needed. The stern-               “So you don’t deny that you have ridden forty miles?” said
ness of our orders does not permit us to act otherwise than                Corentin.
as we have done; but as soon as the walls, which seem to me                  “No,” she said. “I admit that my cousins, in their perfect
rather thick, have been thoroughly examined, we shall take                 innocence, expected not to be excluded from the amnesty,
our departure.”                                                            and were on their way to Cinq-Cygne. When I found that
  The mayor bowed to the company and retired; but neither                  the Sieur Malin was plotting to injure them, I went to warn
the abbe nor Mademoiselle Goujet stirred. The servants were                them to return to Germany, where they will be before the
too uneasy not to watch the fate of their young mistress.                  telegraph can have guarded the frontier. If I have done wrong

                                                                      86
                                                            Balzac
I shall be punished for it.”                                            They left the room and the house, placing one gendarme
   This answer, which Laurence had carefully considered, was          on guard at the door of the salon. The infernal cleverness of
so probable in all its parts that Corentin’s convictions were         the two men had gained a terrible advantage by taking
shaken. In that decisive moment, when every soul present              Laurence in the trap of a not uncommon trick.
hung suspended, as it were, on the faces of the two adversar-
ies, and all eyes turned from Corentin to Laurence and from
Laurence to Corentin, again the gallop of a horse, coming
from the forest, resounded on the road and from there
through the gates to the paved courtyard. Frightful anxiety
was stamped on every face.
   Peyrade entered, his eyes gleaming with joy. He went hast-
ily to Corentin and said, loud enough for the countess to
hear him: “We have caught Michu.”
   Laurence, to whom the agony, fatigue, and tension of all
her intellectual faculties had given an unusual color, turned
white and fell back almost fainting on a chair. Madame
Durieu, Mademoiselle Goujet, and Madame d’Hauteserre
sprang to help her, for she was suffocating. She signed to cut
the frogging of her habit.
   “Duped!” said Corentin to Peyrade. “I am certain now they
are on their way to Paris. Change the orders.”

                                                                 87
                                                     An Historical Mystery
                      CHAPTER IX                                        quarters of a mile distant. On the way, Peyrade remarked that
                                                                        the corporal of Arcis had sent no news of Michu or of Violette.
                          FOILED                                          “We are dealing with very able people,” said Corentin; “they
                                                                        are stronger than we. The priest no doubt has a finger in all this.”
AT SIX O’CLOCK in the morning, as day was dawning, Corentin               Just as the mayor’s wife was ushering her guests into a vast
and Peyrade returned. Having explored the covered way they              dining-room (without any fire) the lieutenant of gendarmes
were satisfied that horses had passed through it to reach the           arrived with an anxious air.
forest. They were now awaiting the report of the captain of               “We met the horse of the corporal of Arcis in the forest
gendarmerie sent to reconnoitre the neighborhood. Leaving               without his master,” he said to Peyrade.
the chateau in charge of a corporal, they went to the tavern              “Lieutenant,” cried Corentin, “go instantly to Michu’s
at Cinq-Cygne to get their breakfast, giving orders that                house and find out what is going on there. They must have
Gothard, who never ceased to reply to all questions with a              murdered the corporal.”
burst of tears, should be set at liberty, also Catherine, who             This news interfered with the mayor’s breakfast. Corentin
still continued silent and immovable. Catherine and Gothard             and Peyrade swallowed their food with the rapidity of hunt-
went to the salon to kiss the hands of their mistress, who lay          ers halting for a meal, and drove back to the chateau in their
exhausted on the sofa; Durieu also went in to tell her that             wicker carriage, so as to be ready to start at the first call for
Stella would recover, but needed great care.                            any point where their presence might be necessary. When
   The mayor, uneasy and inquisitive, met Peyrade and                   the two men reappeared in the salon into which they had
Corentin in the village. He declared that he could not allow            brought such trouble, terror, grief, and anxiety, they found
such important officials to breakfast in a miserable tavern, and        Laurence, in a dressing-gown, Monsieur d’Hauteserre and
he took them to his own house. The abbey was only three                 his wife, the abbe and his sister, sitting round the fire, to all

                                                                   88
                                                             Balzac
appearance tranquil.                                                   then to the salon.
  “If they had caught Michu,” Laurence told herself, “they                At half-past two the lieutenant reappeared.
would have brought him with them. I have the mortifica-                   “I found the corporal,” he said to Corentin, “lying in the
tion of knowing that I was not the mistress of myself, and             road which leads from the pavilion of Cinq-Cygne to the
that I threw some light upon the matter for those wretches;            farm at Bellache. He has no wound, only a bad contusion of
but the harm can be undone—How long are we to be your                  the head, caused, apparently, by his fall. He told me he had
prisoners?” she asked sarcastically, with an easy manner.              been lifted suddenly off his horse and flung so violently to
  “How can she know anything about Michu? No one from                  the ground that he could not discover how the thing was
the outside has got near the chateau; she is laughing at us,”          done. His feet left the stirrups, which was lucky, for he might
said the two agents to each other by a look.                           have been killed by the horse dragging him. We put him in
  “We shall not inconvenience you long,” replied Corentin.             charge of Michu and Violette—”
“In three hours from now we shall offer our regrets for hav-              “Michu! is Michu in his own house?” said Corentin, glanc-
ing troubled your solitude.”                                           ing at Laurence.
  No one replied. This contemptuous silence redoubled                     The countess smiled ironically, like a woman obtaining
Corentin’s inward rage. Laurence and the abbe (the two minds           her revenge.
of their little world) had talked the man over and drawn                  “He is bargaining with Violette about the sale of some
their conclusions. Gothard and Catherine had set the break-            land,” said the lieutenant. “They seemed to me drunk; and
fast-table near the fire and the abbe and his sister were shar-        it’s no wonder, for they have been drinking all night and
ing the meal. Neither masters nor servants paid the slightest          discussing the matter, and they haven’t come to terms yet.”
attention to the two spies, who walked up and down the                    “Did Violette tell you so?” cried Corentin.
garden, the courtyard or the lawn, returning every now and                “Yes,” said the lieutenant.

                                                                  89
                                                     An Historical Mystery
  “Nothing is right if we don’t attend to it ourselves!” cried          yard, where Gothard, now at liberty, got a chance to speak
Peyrade, looking at Corentin, who doubted the lieutenant’s              to him for an instant under the eyes of a gendarme. The
news as much as the other did.                                          little fellow managed to slip something into Gothard’s hand
  “At what hour did you get to Michu’s house?” asked                    without being detected, and the latter glided into the salon
Corentin, noticing that the countess had glanced at the clock.          after him till he reached his mistress, to whom he stealthily
  “About two,” replied the lieutenant.                                  conveyed both halves of the wedding-ring, a sure sign, she
  Laurence covered Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre and                 knew, that Michu had met the four gentlemen and put them
the abbe and his sister in one comprehensive glance, which              in safety.
made them fancy they were wrapped in an azure mantle;                      “My papa wants to know what he’s to do with the corpo-
triumph sparkled in her eyes, she blushed, and the tears welled         ral, who ain’t doing well,” said Francois.
up beneath her lids. Strong under all misfortunes, the girl               “What’s the matter with him?” asked Peyrade.
knew not how to weep except from joy. At this moment she                  “It’s his head—he pitched down hard on the ground,” re-
was all glorious, especially to the priest, who was sometimes           plied the boy. “For a gindarme who knows how to ride it was
distressed by the virility of her character, and who now caught         bad luck—I suppose the horse stumbled. He’s got a hole—
a glimpse of the infinite tenderness of her woman’s nature.             my! as big as your fist—in the back of his head. Seems as if
But such feelings lay in her soul like a treasure hidden at a           he must have hit some big stone, poor man! He may be a
great depth beneath a block of granite.                                 gindarme, but he suffers all the same—you’d pity him.”
   Just then a gendarme entered the salon to ask if he might              The captain of the gendarmerie now arrived and dis-
bring in Michu’s son, sent by his father to speak to the gentle-        mounted in the courtyard. Corentin threw up the window,
men from Paris. Corentin gave an affirmative nod. Francois              not to lose time.
Michu, a sly little chip of the old block, was in the court-              “What has been done?”

                                                                   90
                                                              Balzac
  “We are back like the Dutchmen! We found nothing but                  who was watching them from a window. “I once revenged
five dead horses, their coats stiff with sweat, in the middle of        myself on a woman who was worth a dozen of that one and
the forest. I have kept them to find out where they came                had stirred my bile a good deal less. If this girl comes in the
from and who owns them. The forest is surrounded; who-                  way of my hatchet I’ll pay her for the lash of that whip.”
ever is in it can’t get out.”                                             “The other was a strumpet,” said Peyrade; “this one has
  “At what hour do you suppose those horsemen entered the               rank.”
forest?”                                                                  “What difference is that to me? All’s fish that swims in the
  “About half-past twelve.”                                             sea,” replied Corentin, signing to the gendarme who drove
  “Don’t let a hare leave that forest without your seeing it,”          him to whip up.
whispered Corentin. “I’ll station Peyrade at the village to               Ten minutes later the chateau de Cinq-Cygne was com-
help you; I am going to see the corporal myself—Go to the               pletely evacuated.
mayor’s house,” he added, still whispering, to Peyrade. “I’ll             “How did they get rid of the corporal?” said Laurence to
send some able man to relieve you. We shall have to make                Francois Michu, whom she had ordered to sit down and eat
use of the country-people; examine all faces.” He turned to-            some breakfast.
wards the family and said in a threatening tone, “Au revoir!”             “My father told me it was a matter of life and death and I
  No one replied, and the two agents left the room.                     mustn’t let anybody get into our house,” replied the boy. “I
  “What would Fouche say if he knew we had made a domi-                 knew when I heard the horses in the forest that I’d got to do
ciliary visit without getting any results?” remarked Peyrade            with them hounds of gindarmes, and I meant to keep ‘em
as he helped Corentin into the osier vehicle.                           from getting in. So I took some big ropes that were in my
  “It isn’t over yet,” replied the other, “those four young men         garret and fastened one of ‘em to a tree at the corner of the
are in the forest. Look there!” and he pointed to Laurence              road. Then I drew the rope high enough to hit the breast of

                                                                   91
                                                     An Historical Mystery
a man on horseback, and tied it to the tree on the opposite             on the preceding evening. The gendarme who was driving
side of the way in the direction where I heard the horses.              Corentin took this way, which was the one the corporal of
That barred the road. It didn’t miss fire, I can tell you! There        Arcis had taken. As they drove along, the agent was on the
was no moon, and the corporal just pitched!—but he wasn’t               look-out for signs to show why the corporal had been un-
killed; they’re tough, them gindarmes! I did what I could.”             horsed. He blamed himself for having sent but one man on
  “You have saved us!” said Laurence, kissing him as she took           so important an errand, and he drew from this mistake an
him to the gate. When there, she looked about her and see-              axiom for the police Code, which he afterwards applied.
ing no one she said cautiously, “Have they provisions?”                   “If they have got rid of the corporal,” he said to himself,
  “I have just taken them twelve pounds of bread and four               “they have done as much by Violette. Those five horses have
bottles of wine,” said the boy. “They’ll be snug for a week.”           evidently brought the four conspirators and Michu from the
  Returning to the salon, the girl was beset with mute ques-            neighborhood of Paris to the forest. Has Michu a horse?” he
tions in the eyes of all, each of whom looked at her with as            inquired of the gendarme who was driving him and who
much admiration as eagerness.                                           belonged to the squad from Arcis.
  “But have you really seen them?” cried Madame                           “Yes, and a famous little horse it is,” answered the man, “a hunter
d’Hauteserre.                                                           from the stables of the ci-devant Marquis de Simeuse. There’s no
  The countess put a finger on her lips and smiled; then she            better beast, though it is nearly fifteen years old. Michu can ride
left the room and went to bed; her triumph sure, utter wea-             him fifty miles and he won’t turn a hair. He takes mighty good
riness had overtaken her.                                               care of him and wouldn’t sell him at any price.”
  The shortest road from Cinq-Cygne to Michu’s lodge was                  “What does the horse look like?”
that which led from the village past the farm at Bellache to              “He’s brown, turning rather to black; white stockings above
the rond-point where the Parisian spies had first seen Michu            the hoofs, thin, all nerves like an Arab.”

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                                                               Balzac
   “Did you ever see an Arab?”                                           rose, bowed to Corentin, and offered him some wine.
   “In Egypt—last year. I’ve ridden the horses of the                      “Thank you, no; I came to see the corporal,” said the young
mamelukes. We have to serve twelve years in the cavalry, and             man, who saw with half a glance that Violette had been drunk
I was on the Rhine under General Steingel, after that in Italy,          all night.
and then I followed the First Consul to Egypt. I’ll be a cor-              “My wife is nursing him upstairs,” said Michu.
poral soon.”                                                               “Well, corporal, how are you?” said Corentin who had run
   “When I get to Michu’s house go to the stable; if you have            up the stairs and found the gendarme with his head ban-
served twelve years in the cavalry you know when a horse is              daged, and lying on Madame Michu’s bed; his hat, sabre,
blown. Let me know the condition of Michu’s beast.”                      and shoulder-belt on a chair.
   “See! that’s where our corporal was thrown,” said the man,              Marthe, faithful in her womanly instincts, and knowing
pointing to a spot where the road they were following en-                nothing of her son’s prowess, was giving all her care to the
tered the rond-point.                                                    corporal, assisted by her mother.
   “Tell the captain to come and pick me up at Michu’s, and                “We expect Monsieur Varlet the doctor from Arcis,” she
I’ll go with him to Troyes.”                                             said to Corentin; “our servant-lad has gone to fetch him.”
   So saying Corentin got down, and stood about for a few                  “Leave us alone for a moment,” said Corentin, a good deal
minutes examining the ground. He looked at the two elms                  surprised at the scene, which amply proved the innocence of
which faced each other,—one against the park wall, the other             the two women. “Where were you struck?” he asked the man,
on the bank of the rond-point; then he saw (what no one had              examining his uniform.
yet noticed) the button of a uniform lying in the dust, and                “On the breast,” replied the corporal.
he picked it up. Entering the lodge he saw Violette and Michu              “Let’s see your belt,” said Corentin.
sitting at the table in the kitchen and talking eagerly. Violette          On the yellow band with a white edge, which a recent

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
regulation had made part of the equipment of the guard now               “I was knocked over so suddenly—”
called National, was a metal plate a good deal like that of the          “The skin is rubbed off under your chin,” said Corentin
foresters, on which the law required the inscription of these          quickly.
remarkable words: “Respect to persons and to properties.”                “I think,” said the corporal, “that a rope did go over my
Francois’s rope had struck the belt and defaced it. Corentin           face.”
took up the coat and found the place where the button he                 “I have it!” cried Corentin; “somebody tied a rope from
had picked up upon the road belonged.                                  tree to tree to bar the way.”
  “What time did they find you?” asked Corentin.                         “Like enough,” replied the corporal.
  “About daybreak.”                                                      Corentin went downstairs to the kitchen.
  “Did they bring you up here at once?” said Corentin, no-               “Come, you old rascal,” Michu was saying to Violette, “let’s
ticing that the bed had not been slept in.                             make an end of this. One hundred thousand francs for the
  “Yes.”                                                               place, and you are master of my whole property. I shall retire
  “Who brought you up?”                                                on my income.”
  “The women and little Michu, who found me uncon-                       “I tell you, as there’s a God in heaven, I haven’t more than
scious.”                                                               sixty thousand.”
  “So!” thought Corentin: “evidently they didn’t go to bed.              “But don’t I offer you time to pay the rest? You’ve kept me
The corporal was not shot at, nor struck by any weapon, for            here since yesterday, arguing it. The land is in prime order.”
an assailant must have been at his own height to strike a                “Yes, the soil is good,” said Violette.
blow. Something, some obstacle, was in his way and that                  “Wife, some more wine,” cried Michu.
unhorsed him. A piece of wood? not possible! an iron chain?              “Haven’t you drunk enough?” called down Marthe’s mother.
that would have left marks. What did you feel?” he said aloud.         “This is the fourteenth bottle since nine o’clock yesterday.”

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                                                             Balzac
  “You have been here since nine o’clock this morning, haven’t           “The gun which you were loading yesterday at four o’clock
you?” said Corentin to Violette.                                       you meant to use in murdering the Councillor of State; but
  “No, beg your pardon, since last night I haven’t left the            we can’t take you up for that—plenty of intention, but no
place, and I’ve gained nothing after all; the more he makes            witnesses. You managed, I don’t know how, to stupefy
me drink the more he puts up the price.”                               Violette, and you and your wife and that young rascal of
  “In all markets he who raises his elbow raises a price,” said        yours spent the night out of doors to warn Mademoiselle de
Corentin.                                                              Cinq-Cygne and save her cousins, whom you are hiding
  A dozen empty bottles ranged along the table proved the              here,—though I don’t as yet know where. Your son or your
truth of the old woman’s words. Just then the gendarme who             wife threw the corporal off his horse cleverly enough. Well,
had driven him made a sign to Corentin, who went to the                you’ve got the better of us just now; you’re a devil of a fellow.
door to speak to him.                                                  But the end is not yet, and you won’t have the last word.
  “There is no horse in the stable,” said the man.                     Hadn’t you better compromise? your masters would be the
  “You sent your boy on horseback to the chateau, didn’t               better for it.”
you?” said Corentin, returning to the kitchen. “Will he be               “Come this way, where we can talk without being overheard,”
back soon?”                                                            said Michu, leading the way through the park to the pond.
  “No, monsieur,” said Michu, “he went on foot.”                         When Corentin saw the water he looked fixedly at Michu,
  “What have you done with your horse, then?”                          who was no doubt reckoning on his physical strength to fling
  “I have lent him,” said Michu, curtly.                               the spy into seven feet of mud below three feet of water.
  “Come out here, my good fellow,” said Corentin; “I’ve a              Michu replied with a look that was not less fixed. The scene
word for your ear.”                                                    was absolutely as if a cold and flabby boa constrictor had
  Corentin and Michu left the house.                                   defied one of those tawny, fierce leopards of Brazil.

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
  “I am not thirsty,” said Corentin, stopping short at the             tant facts: a horse like that of Michu had been found dead in
edge of the field and putting his hand into his pocket to feel         the neighborhood of Lagny; the five horses burned in the
for his dagger.                                                        forest of Nodesme had been sold, for five hundred francs
  “We shall never come to terms,” said Michu, coldly.                  each, by farmers and millers to a man who answered to the
  “Mind what you’re about, my good fellow; the law has its             description of Michu. When the decree against the accom-
eye upon you.”                                                         plices and harborers of Georges was put in force Corentin
  “If the law can’t see any clearer than you, there’s danger to        confined his search to the forest of Nodesme. After Moreau,
every one,” said the bailiff.                                          the royalists, and Pichegru were arrested no strangers were
  “Do you refuse?” said Corentin, in a significant tone.               ever seen about the place.
  “I’d rather have my head cut off a thousand times, if that             Michu lost his situation at that time; the notary of Arcis
could be done, than come to an agreement with such a vil-              brought him a letter in which Malin, now made senator,
lain as you.”                                                          requested Grevin to settle all accounts with the bailiff and
  Corentin got into his vehicle hastily, after one more com-           dismiss him. Michu asked and obtained a formal discharge
prehensive look at Michu, the lodge, and Couraut, who                  and became a free man. To the great astonishment of the
barked at him. He gave certain orders in passing through               neighborhood he went to live at Cinq-Cygne, where Laurence
Troyes, and then returned to Paris. All the brigades of                made him the farmer of all the reserved land about the cha-
gendarmerie in the neighborhood received secret instructions           teau. The day of his installation as farmer coincided with the
and special orders.                                                    fatal day of the death of the Duc d’Enghien, when nearly the
  During the months of December, January, and February                 whole of France heard at the same time of the arrest, trial,
the search was active and incessant, even in remote villages.          condemnation, and death of the prince,—terrible reprisals,
Spies were in all the taverns. Corentin learned some impor-            which preceded the trial of Polignac, Riviere, and Moreau.

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                        PART II                                       the secret to themselves, for all were sure that there were
                                                                      spies in the village. These expeditions were never made oftener
                      CHAPTER X                                       than twice a week and on different days and at different hours,
                                                                      sometimes by day, sometimes by night.
              ONE AND THE SAME,                                         These precautions lasted until the trial of Riviere, Polignac,
             YET A TWO-FOLD LOVE                                      and Moreau ended. When the senatus-consultum, which
                                                                      called the dynasty of Bonaparte to the throne and nomi-
WHILE THE NEW FARM-HOUSE was being built Michu the Ju-                nated Napoleon as Emperor of the French, was submitted to
das, so-called, and his family occupied the rooms over the            the French people for acceptance Monsieur d’Hauteserre
stables at Cinq-Cygne on the side of the chateau next to the          signed the paper Goulard brought him. When it was made
famous breach. He bought two horses, one for himself and              known that the Pope would come to France to crown the
one for Francois, and they both joined Gothard in accompa-            Emperor, Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne no longer opposed
nying Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne in her many rides, which             the general desire that her cousins and the young
had for their object, as may well be imagined, the feeding of         d’Hauteserres should petition to have their names struck off
the four gentlemen and perpetual watching that they were              the list of emigres, and be themselves reinstated in their rights
still in safety. Francois and Gothard, assisted by Couraut and        as citizens. On this, old d’Hauteserre went to Paris and con-
the countess’s dogs, went in front and beat the woods all             sulted the ci-devant Marquis de Chargeboeuf who knew
around the hiding-place to make sure that there was no one            Talleyrand. That minister, then in favor, conveyed the peti-
within sight. Laurence and Michu carried the provisions               tion to Josephine, and Josephine gave it to her husband, who
which Marthe, her mother, and Catherine prepared, un-                 was addressed as Emperor, Majesty, Sire, before the result of
known to the other servants of the household so as to restrict        the popular vote was known. Monsieur de Chargeboeuf,

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                                                       An Historical Mystery
Monsieur d’Hauteserre, and the Abbe Goujet, who also went                 Corentin’s reports and convinced Napoleon that the four
to Paris, obtained an interview with Talleyrand, who prom-                gentlemen were sharers in the plot of Riviere and Polignac,
ised them his support. Napoleon had already pardoned sev-                 with Michu for an accomplice. The prefect of police con-
eral of the principal actors in the great royalist conspiracy; and        firmed these assertions.
yet, though the four gentlemen were merely suspected of com-                 “But how could that bailiff know that the conspiracy was
plicity, the Emperor, after a meeting of the Council of State,            discovered?” said the prefect, “for the Emperor and the council
called the senator Malin, Fouche, Talleyrand, Cambaceres,                 and I were the only persons in the secret.”
Lebrun, and Dubois, prefect of police, into his cabinet.                     No one paid attention to this remark.
  “Gentlemen,” said the future Emperor, who still wore the                   “If they have been hidden in that forest for the last seven
dress of the First Consul, “we have received from the Sieurs              months and you have not been able to find them,” said the
de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre, officers in the army of the                  Emperor to Fouche, “they have expiated their misdeeds.”
Prince de Conde, a request to be allowed to re-enter France.”               “Since they are my enemies as well,” said Malin, fright-
  “They are here now,” said Fouche.                                       ened by the Emperor’s clear-sightedness, “I desire to follow
  “Like many others whom I meet in Paris,” remarked                       the magnanimous example of your Majesty; I therefore make
Talleyrand.                                                               myself their advocate and ask that their names be stricken
  “I think you have not met these gentlemen,” said Malin,                 from the list of emigres.”
“for they are hidden in the forest of Nodesme, where they                   “They will be less dangerous to you here than if they are
consider themselves at home.”                                             exiled; for they will now have to swear allegiance to the
  He was careful not to tell the First Consul and Fouche                  Empire and the laws,” said Fouche, looking at Malin fixedly.
how he himself had given them warning, by talking with                      “In what way are they dangerous to the senator?” asked
Grevin within hearing of Michu, but he made the most of                   Napoleon.

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                                                             Balzac
   Talleyrand spoke to the Emperor for some minutes in a               Cambaceres. “Have you any further suggestions?” he asked
low voice. The reinstatement of the Messieurs de Simeuse               of Fouche.
and d’Hauteserre appeared to be granted.                                  “In your Majesty’s interests,” replied the future minister of
   “Sire,” said Fouche, “rely upon it, you will hear of those          police, “I ask to be allowed to inform these gentlemen of
men again.”                                                            their reinstatement —when it is really granted,” he added, in
   Talleyrand, who had been urged by the Duc de Grandlieu,             a louder tone.
gave the Emperor pledges in the name of the young men on                  “Very well,” said Napoleon, noticing an anxious look on
their honor as gentlemen (a term which had great fascina-              Fouche’s face.
tion for Napoleon), to abstain from all attacks upon his                  The matter did not seem positively decided when the Coun-
Majesty and to submit themselves to his government in good             cil rose; but it had the effect of putting into Napoleon’s mind
faith.                                                                 a vague distrust of the four young men. Monsieur
   “Messieurs d’Hauteserre and de Simeuse are not willing to           d’Hauteserre, believing that all was gained, wrote a letter
bear arms against France, now that events have taken their             announcing the good news. The family at Cinq-Cygne were
present course,” he said, aloud; “they have little sympathy, it        therefore not surprised when, a few days later, Goulard came
is true, with the Imperial government, but they are just the           to inform the countess and Madame d’Hauteserre that they
men that your Majesty ought to conciliate. They will be sat-           were to send the four gentlemen to Troyes, where the prefect
isfied to live on French soil and obey the laws.”                      would show them the decree reinstating them in their rights
   Then he laid before the Emperor a letter he had received            and administer to them the oath of allegiance to the Empire
from the brothers in which these sentiments were expressed.            and the laws. Laurence replied that she would send the noti-
   “Anything so frank is likely to be sincere,” said the Em-           fication to her cousins and the Messieurs d’Hauteserre.
peror, returning the letter and looking at Lebrun and                     “Then they are not here?” said Goulard.

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
  Madame d’Hauteserre looked anxiously after Laurence,                Without knowing why, for at any rate his young masters
who left the room to consult Michu. Michu saw no reason             were safe, Michu felt a sharp agony in all his joints, so keen
why the young men should not be released at once from               was the sense of vague, indefinable coming evil which took
their hiding-place. Laurence, Michu, his son, and Gothard           possession of him; but he went forward at once, and found
therefore started as soon as possible for the forest, taking an     Corentin on the stairs with a taper in his hand.
extra horse, for the countess resolved to accompany her cous-         “We are not very harsh,” he said to Michu; “we might have
ins to Troyes and return with them. The whole household,            seized your ci-devants any day for the last week; but we knew
made aware of the good news, gathered on the lawn to wit-           they were reinstated —You’re a tough fellow to deal with,
ness the departure of the happy cavalcade. The four young           and you gave us too much trouble not to make us anxious to
men issued from their long confinement, mounted their               satisfy our curiosity about this hiding-place of yours.”
horses, and took the road to Troyes, accompanied by Made-             “I’d give something,” cried Michu, “to know how and by
moiselle Cinq-Cygne. Michu, with the help of his son and            whom we have been sold.”
Gothard, closed the entrance to the cellar, and started to            “If that puzzles you, old fellow,” said Peyrade, laughing,
return home on foot. On the way he recollected that he had          “look at your horses’ shoes, and you’ll see that you betrayed
left the forks and spoons and a silver cup, which the young         yourselves.”
men had been using, in the cave, and he went back for them            “Well, there need be no rancor!” said Corentin, whistling
alone. When he reached the edge of the pond he heard voices,        for the captain of gendarmerie and their horses.
and went straight to the entrance of the cave through the             “So that rascally Parisian blacksmith who shoed the horses
brushwood.                                                          in the English fashion and left Cinq-Cygne only the other
  “Have you come for your silver?” said Peyrade, showing            day was their spy!” thought Michu. “They must have fol-
his big red nose through the branches.                              lowed our tracks when the ground was damp. Well, we’re

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                                                              Balzac
quits now!”                                                            “The Emperor of the French,” she said, “was badly brought
  Michu consoled himself by thinking that the discovery was          up; he has not yet acquired the habit of bestowing favors
of no consequence, as the young men were now safe, French-           graciously.”
men once more, and at liberty. Yet his first presentiment was          The party found all the inhabitants of the chateau at the
a true one. The police, like the Jesuits, have the one virtue of     gates, and a goodly proportion of the people of the village
never abandoning their friends or their enemies.                     waiting on the road to see the young men, whose adventures
  Old d’Hauteserre returned from Paris and was more than             had made them famous throughout the department. Ma-
surprised not to be the first to bring the news. Durieu pre-         dame d’Hauteserre held her sons to her breast for a long
pared a succulent dinner, the servants donned their best             time, her face covered with tears; she was unable to speak
clothes, and the household impatiently awaited the exiles,           and remained silent, though happy, through a part of the
who arrived about four o’clock, happy,—and yet humiliated,           evening. No sooner had the Simeuse twins dismounted than
for they found they were to be under police surveillance for         a cry of surprise arose on all sides, caused by their amazing
two years, obliged to present themselves at the prefecture           resemblance,—the same look, the same voice, the same ac-
every month and ordered to remain in the commune of Cinq-            tions. They both had the same movement in rising from their
Cygne during the said two years. “I’ll send you the papers           saddles, in throwing their leg over the crupper of their horses
for signature,” the prefect said to them. “Then, in the course       when dismounting, in flinging the reins upon the animal’s
of a few months, you can ask to be relieved of these condi-          neck. Their dress, precisely the same, contributed to this like-
tions, which are imposed on all of Pichegru’s accomplices. I         ness. They wore boots a la Suwaroff, made to fit the instep,
will back your request.”                                             tight trousers of white leather, green hunting-jackets with
  These restrictions, fairly deserved, rather dispirited the         metal buttons, black cravats, and buckskin gloves. The two
young men, but Laurence laughed at them.                             young men, just thirty-one years of age, were—to use a term

                                                                   101
                                                      An Historical Mystery
in vogue in those days—charming cavaliers, of medium                    Marthe, who admired them as a wife and mother, nodded
height but well set up, brilliant eyes with long lashes, float-       her head prettily and pressed her husband’s hand. The ser-
ing in liquid like those of children, black hair, noble brows,        vants were allowed to kiss their new masters.
and olive skin. Their speech, gentle as that of a woman, fell           During their seven months’ seclusion in the forest (which
graciously from their fresh red lips; their manners, more el-         the young men had brought upon themselves) they had sev-
egant and polished than those of the provincial gentlemen,            eral times committed the imprudence of taking walks about
showed that knowledge of men and things had given them                their hiding-place, carefully guarded by Michu, his son, and
that supplementary education which makes its possessor a              Gothard. During these walks, taken usually on starlit nights,
man of the world.                                                     Laurence, reuniting the thread of their past and present lives,
   Not lacking money, thanks to Michu, during their emigra-           felt the utter impossibility of choosing between the brothers.
tion, they had been able to travel and be received at foreign         A pure and equal love for each divided her heart. She fancied
courts. Old d’Hauteserre and the abbe thought them rather             indeed that she had two hearts. On their side, the brothers
haughty; but in their present position this may have been the         dared not speak to themselves of their impending rivalry.
sign of nobility of character. They possessed all the eminent         Perhaps all three were trusting to time and accident. The
little marks of a careful education, to which they added a won-       condition of her mind on this subject acted no doubt upon
derful dexterity in bodily exercises. Their only dissimilarity        Laurence as they entered the house, for she hesitated a mo-
was in the region of ideas. The youngest charmed others by            ment, and then took an arm of each as she entered the salon
his gaiety, the eldest by his melancholy; but the contrast, which     followed by Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, who were
was purely spiritual, was not at first observable.                    occupied with their sons. Just then a cheer burst from the
   “Ah, wife,” whispered Michu in Marthe’s ear, “how could            servants, “Long live the Cinq-Cygne and the Simeuse fami-
one help devoting one’s self to those young fellows?”                 lies!” Laurence turned round, still between the brothers, and

                                                                    102
                                                            Balzac
made a charming gesture of acknowledgement                         lymphatic, was fonder of bodily exercise. Families often
  When these nine persons came to actually observe each            present these singularities of contrast, the causes of which it
other,—for in all meetings, even in the bosom of families,         might be interesting to examine; but they are mentioned here
there comes a moment when friends observe those from               merely to explain how it was that Adrien was not likely to
whom they have been long parted,—the first glance which            find a rival in his brother. Robert’s affection for Laurence
Adrien d’Hauteserre cast upon Laurence seemed to his               was that of a relation, the respect of a noble for a girl of his
mother and to the abbe to betray love. Adrien, the youngest        own caste. In matters of sentiment the elder d’Hauteserre
of the d’Hauteserres, had a sweet and tender soul; his heart       belonged to the class of men who consider woman as an
had remained adolescent in spite of the catastrophes which         appendage to man, limiting her sphere to the physical duties
had nerved the man. Like many young heroes, kept virgin in         of maternity; demanding perfection in that respect, but re-
spirit by perpetual peril, he was daunted by the timidities of     garding her mentally as of no account. To such men the ad-
youth. In this he was very different from his brother, a man       mittance of woman as an actual sharer in society, in the body
of rough manners, a great hunter, an intrepid soldier, full of     politic, in the family, meant the subversion of the social sys-
resolution, but coarse in fibre and without activity of mind       tem. In these days we are so far removed from this theory of
or delicacy in matters of the heart. One was all soul, the         primitive people that almost all women, even those who do
other all action; and yet they both possessed in the same          not desire the fatal emancipation offered by the new sects,
degree that sense of honor which is the vital essence of a         will be shocked in merely hearing of it; but it must be owned
gentleman. Dark, short, slim and wiry, Adrien d’Hauteserre         that Robert d’Hauteserre had the misfortune to think in that
gave an impression of strength; whereas Robert, who was            way. Robert was a man of the middle-ages, Adrien a man of
tall, pale and fair, seemed weakly. Adrien, nervous in tem-        to-day. These differences instead of hindering their affection
perament, was stronger in soul; while his brother though           had drawn its bonds the closer. On the first evening after the

                                                                 103
                                                   An Historical Mystery
return of the young men these shades of character were caught      Countess in her own right, she could bring her husband a
and understood by the abbe, Mademoiselle Goujet, and               title and certain prerogatives, together with a long lineage.
Madame d’Hauteserre, who, while playing their boston, were         Perhaps in thinking of these advantages the elder of the twins,
secretly foreseeing the difficulties of the future.                the Marquis de Simeuse, would sacrifice himself to give
  At twenty-three years of age, having passed through the          Laurence to his brother, who, according to the old laws, was
many reflections of a long solitude and the anguish of a de-       poor and without a title. But would the younger brother
feated enterprise, Laurence had become a woman, and felt           deprive the elder of the happiness of having Laurence for a
within her an absorbing desire for affection. She now put          wife? At a distance, this strife of love and generosity might
forth all her graces of her mind and was charming; she re-         do no harm,—in fact, so long as the brothers were facing
vealed the hidden beauties of her tender heart with the simple     danger the chances of war might end the difficulty; but what
candor of a child. For the last thirteen years she had been a      would be the result of this reunion? When Marie-Paul and
woman only through suffering; she longed to obtain amends          Paul-Marie reached the age when passions rise to their great-
for it, and she showed herself as loving and winning as she        est height could they share, as now, the looks and words and
had been, up to this time, strong and great.                       attentions of their cousin? must there not inevitably arise a
  The four elders, who were the last to leave the salon that       jealousy between them the consequences of which might be
night, admitted to each other that they felt uneasy at the         horrible? What would then become of the unity of those
new position of this charming girl. What power might not           beautiful lives, one in heart though twain in body? To these
passion have on a young woman of her character and with            questionings, passed from one to another as they finished
her nobility of soul? The twin brothers loved her with one         their game, Madame d’Hauteserre replied that in her opin-
and the same love and a blind devotion; which of the two           ion Laurence would not marry either of her cousins. The
would Laurence choose? To choose one was to kill the other.        poor lady had experienced that evening one of those inexpli-

                                                                 104
                                                             Balzac
cable presentiments which are secrets between the mother’s          ments of that exercise would be a help against the tete-a-
heart and God.                                                      tetes of the chateau. At first, however, an unexpected result
  Laurence, in her inward consciousness, was not less alarmed       surprised the spectators of these strange loves and roused
at finding herself tete-a-tete with her cousins. To the active      their admiration. Without any premeditated agreement the
drama of conspiracy, to the dangers which the brothers had          brothers rivalled each other in attentions to Laurence, with a
incurred, to the pain and penalties of their exile, was now         sense of pleasure in so doing which appeared to suffice them.
succeeding another sort of drama, of which she had never            The relation between themselves and Laurence was just as
thought. This noble girl could not resort to the violent means      fraternal as that between themselves. What could be more
of refusing to marry either of the twins; and she was too           natural? After so long an absence they felt the necessity of
honest a woman to marry one and keep an irresistible pas-           studying her, of knowing her well and letting her know them,
sion for the other in her heart. To remain unmarried, to weary      leaving to her the right of choice. They were sustained in
her cousins’ love by no decision, and then to take the one          this first trial by the mutual affection which made their double
who was faithful to her in spite of her caprices, was a solu-       life one and the same life.
tion of the difficulty not so much sought for by her as vaguely        Love, like their own mother, was unable to distinguish be-
admitted. As she fell asleep that night she told herself the        tween the brothers. Laurence was obliged (in order to know
wisest course to follow was to let things take their chance.        them apart and make no mistakes) to give them different
Chance is, in love, the providence of women.                        cravats—to the elder a white one, to the younger black.
  The next morning Michu went to Paris, whence he re-               Without this perfect resemblance, this identity of life, which
turned a few days later with four fine horses for his new           misled all about them, such a situation would be justly
masters. In six weeks’ time the hunting would begin, and            thought impossible. It can, indeed, be explained only by the
the young countess sagely reflected that the violent excite-        fact itself, which is one of those which men do not believe in

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                                                  An Historical Mystery
unless they see them; and then the mind is more bewildered           Such little details often drew tears to the eyes of the count-
by having to explain them than by the actual sight which          ess. A single sensation, which is perhaps all-powerful in some
caused belief. If Laurence spoke, her voice echoed in two         rare organizations, will give an idea of Laurence’s emotions;
hearts equally faithful and loving with one tone. Did she         it may be perceived by recalling the perfect unison of two
give utterance to an intelligent, or witty, or noble thought,     fine voices (like those of Malibran and Sontag) in some har-
her glance encountered the delight expressed in two glances       monious duo, or the blending of two instruments touched
which followed her every movement, interpreted her slight-        by the hand of genius, their melodious tones entering the
est wish, and beamed upon her ever with a new expression,         soul like the passionate sighing of one heart. Sometimes, see-
gaiety in the one, tender melancholy in the other. In any         ing the Marquis de Simeuse buried in an arm-chair and glanc-
matter that concerned their mistress the brothers showed an       ing from time to time with deepest melancholy at his brother
admirable quick-wittedness of heart coupled with instant          and Laurence who were talking and laughing, the abbe be-
action which (to use the abbe’s own expression) approached        lieved him capable of making the great sacrifice; presently,
the sublime. Often, if something had to be fetched, if it was     however, the priest would see in the young man’s eyes the
a question of some little attention which men delight to pay      flash of an unconquerable passion. Whenever either of the
to a beloved woman, the elder would leave that pleasure to        brothers found himself alone with Laurence he might rea-
the younger with a look at Laurence that was proud and            sonably suppose himself the one preferred.
tender. The younger, on the other hand, put all his own pride        “I fancy then that there is but one of them,” explained the
into paying such debts. This rivalry of noble natures in a        countess to the abbe when he questioned her. That answer
feeling which leads men often to the jealous ferocity of the      showed the priest her total want of coquetry. Laurence did
beasts amazed the old people who were watching it, and be-        not conceive that she was loved by two men.
wildered their ideas.                                                “But, my dear child,” said Madame d’Hauteserre one

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                                                            Balzac
evening (her own son silently dying of love for Laurence),         confounded that odious defect with the natural desire to
“you must choose!”                                                 please; he was always mistaken in matters of feeling, taste,
   “Oh, let us be happy,” she replied; “God will save us from      and the higher ethics. So, whenever this man of the middle-
ourselves.”                                                        ages appeared on the scene, Laurence immediately made him,
   Adrien d’Hauteserre buried within his breast the jealousy       unknown to himself, the clown of the play; she amused her
that was consuming him; he kept the secret of his torture,         cousins by arguing with Robert, and leading him, step by
aware of how little he could hope. He tried to be content          step, into some bog of ignorance and stupidity. She excelled
with the happiness of seeing the charming woman who dur-           in such clever mischief, which, to be really successful, must
ing the few months this struggle lasted shone in all her bril-     leave the victim content with himself. And yet, though his
liancy. In one sense Laurence had become coquettish, taking        nature was a coarse one, Robert never, during those delight-
that dainty care of her person which women who are loved           ful months (the only happy period in the lives of the three
delight in. She followed the fashions, and went more than          young people) said one virile word which might have brought
once to Paris to deck her beauty with chiffons or some choice      matters to a crisis between Laurence and her cousins. He
novelty. Desirous of giving her cousins a sense of home and        was struck with the sincerity of the brothers; he saw how the
its every enjoyment, from which they had so long been sev-         one could be glad at the happiness of the other and yet suffer
ered, she made her chateau, in spite of the remonstrances of       anguish in the depths of his heart, and he did perceive how a
her late guardian, the most completely comfortable house in        woman might shrink from showing tenderness to one which
Champagne.                                                         would grieve the other. This perception on Robert’s part was
   Robert d’Hauteserre saw nothing of this hidden drama; he        a just one; it explains a situation which, in times of faith,
never noticed his brother’s love for Laurence. As to the girl      when the sovereign pontiff had power to intervene and cut
herself, he liked to tease her about her coquetry,—for he          the Gordian knot of such phenomena (allied to the deepest

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                                                      An Historical Mystery
and most impenetrable mysteries), would have found its so-              “Really,” said Mademoiselle Goujet one evening, “I don’t
lution. The Revolution had deepened the Catholic faith in             know which of all the lovers loves the most.”
these young hearts, and religion now rendered this crisis in            Adrien, who happened to be alone in the salon with the
their lives the more severe, because nobility of character is         four card-players, raised his eyes and turned pale. For the
ever heightened by the grandeur of circumstances. A sense             last few days his only hold on life had been the pleasure of
of this truth kept Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre and               seeing Laurence and of listening to her.
the abbe from the slightest fear of any unworthy result on              “I think,” said the abbe, “that the countess, being a woman,
the part of the brothers or of Laurence.                              loves with the greater abandonment to love.”
  This private drama, secretly developing within the limits             Laurence, the twins, and Robert entered the room soon
of the family life where each member watched it silently, ran         after. The newspapers had just arrived. England, seeing the
its course so rapidly and withal so slowly, it carried with it so     failure of all conspiracies attempted within the borders of
many unhoped-for pleasures, trifling jars, frustrated fancies,        France, was now arming all Europe against their common
hopes reversed, anxious waitings, delayed explanations and            enemy. The disaster at Trafalgar had overthrown one of the
mute avowals that the dwellers at Cinq-Cygne paid no at-              most amazing plans which human genius ever conceived; by
tention to the public drama of the Emperor’s coronation. At           which, if it had succeeded, the Emperor would have paid the
times these passions made a truce and sought distraction in           nation for his election by the ruin of the British power. The
the violent enjoyment of hunting, when weariness of body              camp at Boulogne had just been raised. Napoleon, whose
took from the soul all occasions to wander in the dangerous           solders were, as always, inferior in numbers to the enemy,
meadows of reverie. Neither Laurence nor her cousins had a            was about to carry the war into parts of Europe where he
thought now for public affairs; each day brought its palpi-           had not before waged it. The whole world was breathless,
tating and absorbing interests for their hearts.                      awaiting the results of the campaign.

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                                                            Balzac
  “He’ll surely be defeated this time,” said Robert, laying           Faithful to his ideas of submission, the old man wished
down the paper.                                                    both Robert and Adrien to re-enter the French army and
  “The armies of Austria and of Russia are before him,” said       apply for service; they could, he thought, be reinstated in
Marie-Paul.                                                        their rank and soon find an opening to military honors. But
  “He has never fought in Germany,” added Paul-Marie.              royalist opinions were now all-powerful at Cinq-Cygne. The
  “Of whom are you speaking?” asked Laurence.                      four young men and Laurence laughed at their prudent el-
  “The Emperor,” answered the three gentlemen.                     der, who seemed to foresee a coming evil. Possibly, prudence
  The jealous girl threw a disdainful look at her twin lovers,     is less virtue than the exercise of some instinct, or sense of the
which humiliated them while it rejoiced the heart of Adrien,       mind (if it is allowable to couple those two words). A day
who made a gesture of admiration and gave her one proud            will come, no doubt, when physiologists and philosophers
look, which said plainly that he thought only of her,—of           will both admit that the senses are, in some way, the sheath
Laurence.                                                          or vehicle of a keen and penetrative active power which is-
  “I told you,” said the abbe in a low voice, “that love would     sues from the mind.
some day cause her to forget her animosity.”
  It was the first, last, and only reproach the brothers ever
received from her; but certainly at that moment their love,
which could still be distracted by national events, was infe-
rior to that of Laurence, which, absorbed her mind so com-
pletely that she only knew of the amazing triumph at
Austerlitz by overhearing a discussion between Monsieur
d’Hauteserre and his sons.

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                                                  An Historical Mystery
                     CHAPTER XI                                   “we ought to have gone to him and made our
                                                                  acknowledgements.”
                   WISE COUNSEL                                     A servant, dressed as a peasant, who drove the horses from
                                                                  a seat on a level with the body of the carriage, slipped his
AFTER PEACE WAS CONCLUDED between France and Austria,             cartman’s whip into a coarse leather socket, and got down
towards the end of the month of February, 1806, a relative,       from the box to assist the marquis from the carriage; but
whose influence had been employed for the reinstatement of        Adrien and the younger de Simeuse prevented him, unbut-
the Simeuse brothers, and who was destined later to give          toned the leather apron, and helped the old man out in spite
them signal proofs of family attachment, the ci-devant Mar-       of his protestations. This gentleman of the old school chose
quis de Chargeboeuf, whose estates extended from the de-          to consider his yellow berlingot with its leather curtains a
partment of the Seine-et-Marne to that of the Aube, arrived       most convenient and excellent equipage. The servant, assisted
one morning at Cinq-Cygne in a species of caleche which           by Gothard, unharnessed the stout horses with shining flanks,
was then named in derision a berlingot. When this shabby          accustomed no doubt to do as much duty at the plough as in
carriage was driven past the windows the inhabitants of the       a carriage.
chateau, who were at breakfast, were convulsed with laugh-          “In spite of this cold weather! Why, you are a knight of the
ter; but when the bald head of the old man was seen issuing       olden time,” said Laurence, to her visitor, taking his arm and
from behind the leather curtain of the vehicle Monsieur           leading him into the salon.
d’Hauteserre told his name, and all present rose instantly to       “What has he come for?” thought old d’Hauteserre.
receive and do honor to the head of the house of Chargeboeuf.       Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, a handsome old gentleman of
  “We have done wrong to let him come to us,” said the            sixty-six, in light-colored breeches, his small weak legs en-
Marquis de Simeuse to his brother and the d’Hauteserres;          cased in colored stockings, wore powder, pigeon-wings and

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                                                            Balzac
a queue. His green cloth hunting-coat with gold buttons was        towards him, and to be saying to himself, “When we are
braided and frogged with gold. His white waistcoat glittered       making love we can’t make visits.”
with gold embroidery. This apparel, still in vogue among old         “You will stay with us some days?” said Laurence.
people, became his face, which was not unlike that of                “Impossible,” he replied. “If we were not so separated by
Frederick the Great. He never put on his three-cornered hat        events (for as to distance, you go farther than that which lies
lest he should destroy the effect of the half-moon traced upon     between us) you would know, my dear child, that I have
his cranium by a layer of powder. His right hand, resting on       daughters, daughters-in-law, and grand-children. All these
a hooked cane, held both cane and hat in a manner worthy           dear creatures would be very uneasy if I did not return to
of Louis XIV. The fine old gentleman took off his wadded           them to-night, and I have forty-five miles to go.”
silk pelisse and seated himself in an armchair, holding the          “Your horses are in good condition,” said the Marquis de
three-cornered hat and the cane between his knees in an at-        Simeuse.
titude the secret of which has never been grasped by any but         “Oh! I am just from Troyes, where I had business yester-
the roues of Louis XV.’s court, an attitude which left the         day.”
hands free to play with a snuff-box, always a precious trin-         After the customary polite inquiries for the Marquise de
ket. Accordingly the marquis drew from the pocket of his           Chargeboeuf and other matters really uninteresting but about
waistcoat, which was closed by a flap embroidered in gold          which politeness assumes that we are keenly interested, it
arabesques, a sumptuous snuff-box. While fingering his own         dawned on Monsieur d’Hauteserre that the old gentleman
pinch and offering the box around him with another charm-          had come to warn his young relatives against imprudence.
ing gesture accompanied with kindly smiles, he noticed the         He remarked that times were changed and no one could tell
pleasure which his visit gave. He seemed then to compre-           what the Emperor might now become.
hend why these young emigres had been remiss in their duty           “Oh!” said Laurence, “he’ll make himself God.”

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                                                   An Historical Mystery
  The Marquis spoke of the wisdom of concession. When              Emperor; partisans declare that Napoleon’s clemency is in-
he stated, with more emphasis and authority than he put            explicable. That, however, is nothing. The real danger lies
into his other remarks, the necessity of submission, Mon-          here; you foiled men who thought themselves cleverer than
sieur d’Hauteserre looked at his sons with an almost suppli-       you; and low-bred men never forgive. Sooner or later jus-
cating air.                                                        tice, which in your department emanates from your enemy,
  “Would you serve that man?” asked the Marquis de                 Senator Malin (who has his henchmen everywhere, even in
Simeuse.                                                           the ministerial offices),—his justice will rejoice to see you
  “Yes, I would, if the interests of my family required it,”       involved in some annoying scrape. A peasant, for instance,
replied Monsieur de Chargeboeuf.                                   will quarrel with you for riding over his field; your guns are
   Gradually the old man made them aware, though vaguely,          in your hands, you are hot-tempered, and something hap-
of some threatened danger. When Laurence begged him to             pens. In your position it is absolutely essential that you should
explain the nature of it, he advised the four young men to         not put yourselves in the wrong. I do not speak to you thus
refrain from hunting and to keep themselves as much in re-         without good reason. The police keep this arrondissement
tirement as possible.                                              under strict surveillance; they have an agent in that little hole
   “You treat the domain of Gondreville as if it were your         of Arcis expressly to protect the Imperial senator Malin against
own,” he said to the Messieurs de Simeuse, “and you are            your attacks. He is afraid of you, and says so openly.”
keeping alive a deadly hatred. I see, by the surprise upon           “It is a calumny!” cried the younger Simeuse.
your faces, that you are quite unaware of the ill-will against       “A calumny,—I am sure of it myself, but will the public
you at Troyes, where your late brave conduct is remembered.        believe it? Michu certainly did aim at the senator, who does
They tell of how you foiled the police of the Empire; some         not forget the danger he was in; and since your return the
praise you for it, but others regard you as enemies of the         countess has taken Michu into her service. To many per-

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                                                             Balzac
sons, in fact to the majority, Malin will seem to be in the         you to Trieste to a friend of ours who has immense business
right. You do not understand how delicate the position of an        connections, and he’ll employ you until things are better in
emigre is towards those who are now in possession of his            this country for all of us.”
property. The prefect, a very intelligent man, dropped a word         Tears came into Michu’s eyes; he stood rooted to the floor.
to me yesterday about you which has made me uneasy. In                “Were there any witnesses when you aimed at Malin?” asked
short, I sincerely wish you would not remain here.”                 the Marquis de Chargeboeuf.
   This speech was received in dumb amazement. Marie-Paul             “Grevin the notary was talking with him, and that pre-
rang the bell.                                                      vented my killing him—very fortunately, as Madame la
   “Gothard,” he said, to the little page, “send Michu here.”       Comtesse knows,” said Michu, looking at his mistress.
   “Michu, my friend,” said the Marquis de Simeuse when               “Grevin is not the only one who knows it?” said Monsieur
the man appeared, “is it true that you intended to kill Malin?”     de Chargeboeuf, who seemed annoyed at what was said,
   “Yes, Monsieur le marquis; and when he comes here again          though none but the family were present.
I shall lie in wait for him.”                                         “That police spy who came here to trap my masters, he
   “Do you know that we are suspected of instigating it, and        knew it too,” said Michu.
that our cousin, by taking you as her farmer is supposed to           Monsieur de Chargeboeuf rose as if to look at the gardens,
be furthering your scheme?”                                         and said, “You have made the most of Cinq-Cygne.” Then
   “Good God!” cried Michu, “am I accursed? Shall I never           he left the house, followed by the two brothers and Laurence,
be able to rid you of that villain?”                                who now saw the meaning of his visit.
   “No, my man, no!” said Paul-Marie. “But we will always             “You are frank and generous, but most imprudent,” said
take care of you, though you will have to leave our service         the old man. “It was natural enough that I should warn you
and the country too. Sell your property here; we will send          of a rumor which was certain to be a slander; but what have

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                                                     An Historical Mystery
you done now? you have let such weak persons as Monsieur             he who manoeuvres now to bring back the Bourbons if Na-
and Madame d’Hauteserre and their sons see that there was            poleon totters; he whom the strong will ever find on their
truth in it. Oh, young men! young men! You ought to keep             side to handle either sword or pistol and put an end to an
Michu here and go away yourselves. But if you persist in             adversary whom they fear! But—all that is only reason the
remaining, at least write a letter to the senator and tell him       more for what I urge upon you.”
that having heard the rumors about Michu you have dis-                 “We have fallen very low,” said Laurence.
missed him from your employ.”                                          “Children,” said the old marquis, taking them by the hand
  “We!” exclaimed the brothers; “what, write to Malin,—to            and going to the lawn, then covered by a slight fall of snow;
the murderer of our father and our mother, to the insolent           “you will be angry at the prudent advice of an old man, but
plunderer of our property!”                                          I am bound to give it, and here it is: If I were you I would
   “All true; but he is one of the chief personages at the Impe-     employ as go-between some trustworthy old fellow—like
rial court, and the king of your department.”                        myself, for instance; I would commission him to ask Malin
   “He, who voted for the death of Louis XVI. in case the            for a million of francs for the title-deeds of Gondreville; he
army of Conde entered France!” cried Laurence.                       would gladly consent if the matter were kept secret. You will
   “He, who probably advised the murder of the Duc                   then have capital in hand, an income of a hundred thousand
d’Enghien!” exclaimed Paul-Marie.                                    francs, and you can buy a fine estate in another part of France.
   “Well, well, if you want to recapitulate his titles of nobil-     As for Cinq-Cygne, it can safely be left to the management
ity,” cried Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, “say he who pulled              of Monsieur d’Hauteserre, and you can draw lots as to which
Robespierre by the skirts of his coat to make him fall when          of you shall win the hand of this dear heiress—But ah! I
he saw that his enemies were stronger than he; he who would          know the words of an old man in the ears of the young are
have shot Bonaparte if the 18th Brumaire had missed fire;            like the words of the young in the ears of the old, a sound

                                                                   114
                                                            Balzac
without meaning.”                                                    As soon as the horses were put-to the marquis took leave,
  The old marquis signed to his three relatives that he wished     accompanied to the door by the whole party. When fairly in
no answer, and returned to the salon, where, during their          the carriage he made a sign to Laurence to come and speak
absence, the abbe and his sister had arrived.                      to him, and she sprang upon the foot-board with the light-
  The proposal to draw lots for their cousin’s hand had of-        ness of a swallow.
fended the brothers, while Laurence revolted in her soul at          “You are not an ordinary woman, and you ought to un-
the bitterness of the remedy the old marquis counselled. All       derstand me,” he said in her ear. “Malin’s conscience will
three were now less gracious to him, though they did not           never allow him to leave you in peace; he will set some trap
cease to be polite. The warmth of their feeling was chilled.       to injure you. I implore you to be careful of all your actions,
Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, who felt the change, cast frequent        even the most unimportant. Compromise, negotiate; those
looks of kindly compassion on these charming young people.         are my last words.”
The conversation became general, but the old marquis still           The brothers stood motionless behind their cousin and
dwelt on the necessity of submitting to events, and he ap-         watched the berlingot as it turned through the iron gates and
plauded Monsieur d’Hauteserre for his persistence in urging        took the road to Troyes. Laurence repeated the old man’s last
his sons to take service under the Empire.                         words. But sage experience should not present itself to the
  “Bonaparte,” he said, “makes dukes. He has created Impe-         eyes of youth in a berlingot, colored stockings, and a queue.
rial fiefs, he will therefore make counts. Malin is determined     These ardent young hearts had no conception of the change
to be Comte de Gondreville. That is a fancy,” he added, look-      that had passed over France; indignation crisped their nerves,
ing at the Simeuse brothers, “which might be profitable to         honor boiled with their noble blood through every vein.
you—”                                                                “He, the head of the house of Chargeboeuf!” said the Mar-
  “Or fatal,” said Laurence.                                       quis de Simeuse. “A man who bears the motto Adsit fortior,

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
the noblest of warcries!”                                           tity in these parts you must be careful not to compromise us
  “We are no longer in the days of Saint-Louis,” said the           in future. Have you any other peccadilloes on your con-
younger Simeuse.                                                    science?”
  “But ‘We die singing,’” said the countess. “The cry of the           “I blame myself for not having killed the murderer of my old
five young girls of my house is mine!”                              masters before I came to the rescue of my present ones—”
  “And ours, ‘Cy meurs,’” said the elder Simeuse. “There-              “Michu!” said the abbe in a warning tone.
fore, no quarter, I say; for, on reflection, we shall find that        “But I’ll not leave the country,” Michu continued, paying
our relative had pondered well what he told us—Gondreville          no heed to the abbe’s exclamation, “till I am certain you are
to be the title of a Malin!”                                        safe. I see fellows roaming about here whom I distrust. The
  “And his seat!” said the younger.                                 last time we hunted in the forest, that keeper who took my
  “Mansart designed it for noble stock, and the populace            place at Gondreville came to me and asked if we supposed
will get their children in it!” exclaimed the elder.                we were on our own property. ‘Ho! my lad,’ I said, ‘we can’t
  “If that were to come to pass, I’d rather see Gondreville in      get rid in two weeks of ideas we’ve had for centuries.’”
ashes!” cried Mademoiselle Cinq-Cygne.                                “You did wrong, Michu,” said the Marquis de Simeuse,
  One of the villagers, who had entered the grounds to ex-          smiling with satisfaction.
amine a calf Monsieur d’Hauteserre was trying to sell him,            “What answer did he make?” asked Monsieur d’Hauteserre.
overheard these words as he came from the cow-sheds.                  “He said he would inform the senator of our claims,” re-
  “Let us go in,” said Laurence, laughing; “this is very im-        plied Michu.
prudent; we are giving the old marquis a right to blame us.           “Comte de Gondreville!” repeated the elder Simeuse; “what
My poor Michu,” she added, as she entered the salon, “I had         a masquerade! But after all, they say ‘your Majesty’ to
forgotten your adventure; as we are not in the odor of sanc-        Bonaparte!”

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                                                            Balzac
   “And to the Grand Duc de Berg, ‘your Highness!’” said             These remarks, made rapidly one after another, were so
the abbe.                                                          many commentaries on the wise counsel of the old Marquis
   “Who is he?” asked the Marquis de Simeuse.                      de Chargeboeuf; but the young people had too much faith,
   “Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law,” replied old                 too much honor, to dream of resorting to a compromise.
d’Hauteserre.                                                      They told themselves, as all vanquished parties in all times
   “Delightful!” remarked Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. “Do          have declared, that the luck of the conquerors would soon
they also say ‘your Majesty’ to the widow of Beauharnais?”         be at an end, that the Emperor had no support but that of
   “Yes, mademoiselle,” said the abbe.                             the army, that the power de facto must sooner or later give
   “We ought to go to Paris and see it all,” cried Laurence.       way to the Divine Right, etc. So, in spite of the wise counsel
   “Alas, mademoiselle,” said Michu, “I was there to put           given to them, they fell into the pitfall, which others, like
Francois at school, and I swear to you there’s no joking with      old d’Hauteserre, more prudent and more amenable to rea-
what they call the Imperial Guard. If the rest of the army are     son, would have been able to avoid. If men were frank they
like them, the thing may last longer than we.”                     might perhaps admit that misfortunes never overtake them
   “They say many of the noble families are taking service,”       until after they have received either an actual or an occult
said Monsieur d’Hauteserre.                                        warning. Many do not perceive the deep meaning of such
   “According to the present law,” added the abbe, “you will       visible or invisible signs until after the disaster is upon them.
be compelled to serve. The conscription makes no distinc-            “In any case, Madame la comtesse knows that I cannot
tion of ranks or names.”                                           leave the country until I have given up a certain trust,” said
   “That man is doing us more harm with his court than the         Michu in a low voice to Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.
Revolution did with its axe!” cried Laurence.                        For all answer she made him a sign of acquiescence, and
   “The Church prays for him,” said the abbe.                      he left the room.

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                                                     An Historical Mystery
                     CHAPTER XII                                     Monsieur Grevin, the notary of Arcis, Madame Marion, the
                                                                     wife of the receiver-general, and her sister-in-law are staying
  THE FACTS OF A MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR                                   at Gondreville.”
                                                                        Laurence had chosen the mid-lent day for their purpose
MICHU SOLD HIS FARM at once to Beauvisage, a farmer at               because it enabled her to give her servants a holiday and so
Bellache, but he was not to receive the money for twenty             get them out of the way. The usual masquerade drew the
days. A month after the Marquis de Chargeboeuf ’s visit,             peasantry to the town and no one was at work in the fields.
Laurence, who had told her cousins of their buried fortune,          Chance made its calculations with as much cleverness as Ma-
proposed to them to take the day of the Mi-careme to disin-          demoiselle de Cinq-Cygne made hers. The uneasiness of
ter it. The unusual quantity of snow which fell that winter          Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre at the idea of keeping
had hitherto prevented Michu from obtaining the treasure,            eleven hundred thousand francs in gold in a lonely chateau
and it now gave him pleasure to undertake the operation              on the borders of a forest was likely to be so great that their
with his masters. He was determined to leave the neighbor-           sons advised they should know nothing about it. The secret
hood as soon as it was over, for he feared himself.                  of the expedition was therefore confined to Gothard, Michu,
  “Malin has suddenly arrived at Gondreville, and no one             Laurence, and the four gentlemen.
knows why,” he said to his mistress. “I shall never be able to          After much consultation it seemed possible to put forty-
resist putting the property into the market by the death of its      eight thousand francs in a long sack on the crupper of each
owner. I feel I am guilty in not following my inspirations.”         of their horses. Three trips would therefore bring the whole.
  “Why should he leave Paris at this season?” said the countess.     It was agreed to send all the servants, whose curiosity might
  “All Arcis is talking about it,” replied Michu; “he has left       be troublesome, to Troyes to see the shows. Catherine,
his family in Paris, and no one is with him but his valet.           Marthe, and Durieu, who could be relied on, stayed at home

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                                                             Balzac
in charge of the house. The other servants were glad of their       was thinking of them when he gave utterance to the fatal
holiday and started by daybreak. Gothard, assisted by Michu,        words.
saddled the horses as soon as they were gone, and the party           “Not a word of this, old friend,” said Michu to Beauvisage,
started by way of the gardens to reach the forest. Just as they     waiting behind the others to lock the gate.
were mounting—for the park gate was so low on the garden              It was one of those fine mornings in March when the air is
side that they led their horses until they were through it—         dry, the earth pure, the sky clear, and the atmosphere a con-
old Beauvisage, the farmer at Bellache, happened to pass.           tradiction to the leafless trees; the season was so mild that
  “There!” cried Gothard, “I hear some one.”                        the eye caught glimpses here and there of verdure.
  “Oh, it is only I,” said the worthy man, coming toward              “We are seeking treasure when all the while you are the real
them. “Your servant, gentleman; are you off hunting, in spite       treasure of our house, cousin,” said the elder Simeuse, gaily.
of the new decrees? I don’t complain of you; but do take              Laurence was in front, with a cousin on each side of her.
care! though you have friends you have also enemies.”               The d’Hauteserres were behind, followed by Michu. Gothard
  “Oh, as for that,” said the elder Hauteserre, smiling, “God       had gone forward to clear the way.
grant that our hunt may be lucky to-day,—if so, you will get          “Now that our fortune is restored, you must marry my
your masters back again.”                                           brother,” said the younger in a low voice. “He adores you; to-
  These words, to which events were destined to give a to-          gether you will be as rich as nobles ought to be in these days.”
tally different meaning, earned a severe look from Laurence.          “No, give the whole fortune to him and I will marry you,”
The elder Simeuse was confident that Malin would restore            said Laurence; “I am rich enough for two.”
Gondreville for an indemnity. These rash youths were deter-           “So be it,” cried the Marquis; “I will leave you, and find a
mined to do exactly the contrary of what the Marquis de             wife worthy to be your sister.”
Chargeboeuf had advised. Robert, who shared these hopes,              “So you really love me less than I thought you did?” said

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                                                   An Historical Mystery
Laurence looking at him with a sort of jealousy.                     “And let the race of Cinq-Cygne end?” said the younger
  “No; I love you better than either of you love me,” replied      brother. “Instead of one unhappy man, would you make two?
the marquis.                                                       No, whichever of us must be your brother only, will resign
  “And therefore you would sacrifice yourself?” asked              himself to that fate. It is the knowledge that we are no longer
Laurence with a glance full of momentary preference.               poor that has brought us to explain ourselves,” he added,
  The marquis was silent.                                          glancing at the marquis. “If I am the one preferred, all this
  “Well, then, I shall think only of you, and that will be         money is my brother’s. If I am rejected, he will give it to me
intolerable to my husband,” exclaimed Laurence, impatient          with the title of de Simeuse, for he must then take the name
at his silence.                                                    and title of Cinq-Cygne. Whichever way it ends, the loser
  “How could I live without you?” said the younger twin to         will have a chance of recovery—but if he feels he must die of
his brother.                                                       grief, he can enter the army and die in battle, not to sadden
  “But, after all, you can’t marry us both,” said the marquis,     the happy household.”
replying to Laurence; “and the time has come,” he contin-            “We are true knights of the olden time, worthy of our fa-
ued, in the brusque tone of a man who is struck to the heart,      thers,” cried the elder. “Speak, Laurence; decide between us.”
“to make your decision.”                                             “We cannot continue as we are,” said the younger.
  He urged his horse in advance so that the d’Hauteserres            “Do not think, Laurence, that self-denial is without its
might not overhear them. His brother’s horse and Laurence’s        joys,” said the elder.
followed him. When they had put some distance between                “My dear loved ones,” said the girl, “I am unable to de-
themselves and the rest of the party Laurence attempted to         cide. I love you both as though you were one being—as your
speak, but tears were at first her only language.                  mother loved you. God will help us. I cannot choose. Let us
  “I will enter a cloister,” she said at last.                     put it to chance—but I make one condition.”

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                                                            Balzac
  “What is it?”                                                    muffled tones of a death-knell. The day, however, began
  “Whichever one of you becomes my brother must stay with          brightly enough for lovers, who rarely see magpies when to-
me until I suffer him to leave me. I wish to be sole judge of      gether in the woods. Michu, armed with his plan, verified
when to part.”                                                     the spots; each gentleman had brought a pickaxe, and the
  “Yes, yes,” said the brothers, without explaining to them-       money was soon found. The part of the forest where it was
selves her meaning.                                                buried was quite wild, far from all paths or habitations, so
  “The first of you to whom Madame d’Hauteserre speaks             that the cavalcade bearing the gold returned unseen. This
to-night at table after the Benedicite, shall be my husband.       proved to be a great misfortune. On their way from Cinq-
But neither of you must practise fraud or induce her to an-        Cygne to fetch the last two hundred thousand francs, the
swer a question.”                                                  party, emboldened by success, took a more direct way than
  “We will play fair,” said the younger, smiling.                  on their other trips. The path passed an opening from which
  Each kissed her hand. The certainty of some decision which       the park of Gondreville could be seen.
both could fancy favorable made them gay.                            “What is that?” cried Laurence, pointing to a column of
  “Either way, dear Laurence, you create a Comte de Cinq-          blue flame.
Cygne—”                                                              “A bonfire, I think,” replied Michu.
  “I believe,” thought Michu, riding behind them, “that ma-          Laurence, who knew all the by-ways of the forest, left the
demoiselle will not long be unmarried. How gay my masters          rest of the party and galloped towards the pavilion, Michu’s
are! If my mistress makes her choice I shall not leave; I must     old home. Though the building was closed and deserted, the
stay and see that wedding.”                                        iron gates were open, and traces of the recent passage of sev-
  Just then a magpie flew suddenly before his face. Michu,         eral horses struck Laurence instantly. The column of blue
superstitious like all primitive beings, fancied he heard the      smoke was rising from a field in what was called the English

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park, where, as she supposed, they were burning brush.            Grevin were playing chess before the fire in the great salon
   “Ah! so you are concerned in it, too, are you, mademoi-        on the ground-floor. Madame Grevin and Madame Marion
selle?” cried Violette, who came out of the park at top speed     were sitting on a sofa and talking together at a corner of the
on his pony, and pulled up to meet Laurence. “But, of course,     fireplace. All the servants had gone to see the masquerade,
it is only a carnival joke? They surely won’t kill him?”          which had long been announced in the arrondissement. The
   “Who?”                                                         family of the bailiff who had replaced Michu had gone too.
   “Your cousins wouldn’t put him to death?”                      The senator’s valet and Violette were the only persons beside
   “Death! whose death?”                                          the family at the chateau. The porter, two gardeners, and
   “The senator’s.”                                               their wives were on the place, but their lodge was at the en-
  “You are crazy, Violette!”                                      trance of the courtyards at the farther end of the avenue to
  “Well, what are you doing here, then?” he demanded.             Arcis, and the distance from there to the chateau is beyond
  At the idea of a danger which was threatening her cousins,      the sound of a pistol-shot. Violette was waiting in the ante-
Laurence turned her horse and galloped back to them, reach-       chamber until the senator and Grevin could see him on busi-
ing the ground as the last sacks were filled.                     ness, to arrange a matter relating to his lease. At that moment
  “Quick, quick!” she cried. “I don’t know what is going on,      five men, masked and gloved, who in height, manner, and
but let us get back to Cinq-Cygne.”                               bearing strongly resembled the Simeuse and d’Hauteserre
  While the happy party were employed in recovering the           brothers and Michu, rushed into the antechamber, seized and
fortune saved by the old marquis, and guarded for so many         gagged the valet and Violette, and fastened them to their chairs
years by Michu, an extraordinary scene was taking place in        in a side room. In spite of the rapidity with which this was
the chateau of Gondreville.                                       done, Violette and the servant had time to utter one cry. It
  About two o’clock in the afternoon Malin and his friend         was heard in the salon. The two ladies thought it a cry of fear.

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                                                            Balzac
  “Listen!” said Madame Grevin, “can there be robbers?”            help. Hearing the shouts the five men withdrew to the gar-
  “No, nonsense!” said Grevin, “only carnival cries; the mas-      dens, where they mounted horses closely resembling those
queraders must be coming to pay us a visit.”                       at Cinq-Cygne and rode away, but not so rapidly that Violette
  This discussion gave time for the four strangers to close        was unable to catch sight of them. After releasing the valet,
the doors towards the courtyards and to lock up Violette           the two ladies, and the notary, Violette mounted his pony
and the valet. Madame Grevin, who was rather obstinate,            and rode after help. When he reached the pavilion he was
insisted on knowing what the noise meant. She rose, left the       amazed to see the gates open and Mademoiselle de Cinq-
room, and came face to face with the five masked men, who          Cygne apparently on the watch.
treated her as they had treated the farmer and the valet. Then       Directly after the young countess had ridden off, Violette
they rushed into the salon, where the two strongest seized         was overtaken by Grevin and the forester of the township of
and gagged Malin, and carried him off into the park, while         Gondreville, who had taken horses from the stables at the
the three others remained behind to gag Madame Marion              chateau. The porter’s wife was on her way to summon the
and Grevin and lash them to their armchairs. The whole             gendarmerie from Arcis. Violette at once informed Grevin
affair did not take more than half an hour. The three un-          of his meeting with Laurence and the sudden flight of the
known men, who were quickly rejoined by the two who had            daring girl, whose strong and decided character was known
carried off the senator, then proceeded to ransack the cha-        to all of them.
teau from cellar to garret. They opened all closets and doors,       “She was keeping watch,” said Violette.
and sounded the walls; until five o’clock they were absolute         “Is it possible that those Cinq-Cygne people have done
masters of the place. By that time the valet had managed to        this thing?” cried Grevin.
loosen with his teeth the rope that bound Violette. Violette,        “Do you mean to say you didn’t recognize that stout
able then to get the gag from his mouth, began to shout for        Michu?” exclaimed Violette. “It was he who attacked me; I

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                                                  An Historical Mystery
knew his fist. Besides, they rode the Cinq-Cygne horses.”                            CHAPTER XIII
   Noticing the hoof-marks on the sand of the rond-point and
along the park road the notary stationed the forester at the         THE CODE OF BRUMAIRE, YEAR IV.
gateway to see to the preservation of these precious traces
until the justice of peace of Arcis (for whom he now sent        MALIN AND GREVIN had both, the latter working for the
Violette) could take note of them. He himself returned hast-     former, taken part in the construction of the Code called
ily to the chateau, where the lieutenant and sub-lieutenant      that of Brumaire, year IV., the judicial work of the National
of the Imperial gendarmerie at Arcis had arrived, accompa-       Convention, so-called, and promulgated by the Directory.
nied by four men and a corporal. The lieutenant was the          Grevin knew its provisions thoroughly, and was able to ap-
same man whose head Francois Michu had broken two years          ply them in this affair with terrible celerity, under a theory,
earlier, and who had heard from Corentin the name of his         now converted into a certainty, of the guilt of Michu and the
mischievous assailant. This man, whose name was Giguet           Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre. No one in these days,
(his brother was in the army, and became one of the finest       unless it be some antiquated magistrates, will remember this
colonels of artillery), was an extremely able officer of         system of justice, which Napoleon was even then overthrow-
gendarmerie. Later he commanded the squadron of the Aube.        ing by the promulgation of his own Codes, and by the insti-
The sub-lieutenant, named Welff, had formerly driven             tution of his magistracy under the form in which it now
Corentin from Cinq-Cygne to the pavilion, and from the           rules France.
pavilion to Troyes. On the way, the spy had fully informed         The Code of Brumaire, year IV., gave to the director of the
him as to what he called the trickery of Laurence and Michu.     jury of the department the duty of discovering, indicting,
The two officers were therefore well inclined to show, and       and prosecuting the persons guilty of the delinquency com-
did show, great eagerness against the family at Cinq-Cygne.      mitted at Gondreville. Remark, by the way, that the Con-

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                                                              Balzac
vention had eliminated from its judicial vocabulary the word         position to exercise such influence over the jurymen, who
“crime”; delinquencies and misdemeanors were alone admit-            met in his private office, that they could not well avoid agree-
ted; and these were punished with fines, imprisonment, and           ing with him. These jurymen were called the jury of indict-
penalties “afflictive or infamous.” Death was an afflictive pun-     ment. There were others who formed the juries of the crimi-
ishment. But the penalty of death was to be done away with           nal tribunals whose duty it was to judge the accused; these
after the restoration of peace, and twenty-four years of hard        were called, in contradistinction to the jury of indictment,
labor were to take its place. Thus the Convention estimated          the judgment jury. The criminal tribunal, to which Napo-
twenty-four years of hard labor as the equivalent of death.          leon afterwards gave the name of criminal court, was com-
What therefore can be said for a code which inflicts the pun-        posed of one President or chief justice, four judges, the pub-
ishment of hard labor for life? The system then in process of        lic prosecutor, and a government commissioner.
preparation by the Napoleonic Council of State suppressed               Nevertheless, from 1799 to 1806 there were special courts
the function of the directors of juries, which united many           (so-called) which judged without juries certain misdemean-
enormous powers. In relation to the discovery of delinquen-          ors in certain departments; these were composed of judges
cies and their prosecution the director of the jury was, in          taken from the civil courts and formed into a special court.
fact, agent of police, public prosecutor, municipal judge, and       This conflict of special justice and criminal justice gave rise
the court itself. His proceedings and his indictments were,          to questions of competence which came before the courts of
however, submitted for signature to a commissioner of the            appeal. If the department of the Aube had had a special court,
executive power and to the verdict of eight jurymen, before          the verdict on the outrage committed on a senator of the
whom he laid the facts of the case, and who examined the             Empire would no doubt have been referred to it; but this
witnesses and the accused and rendered the preliminary ver-          tranquil department had never needed unusual jurisdiction.
dict, called the indictment. The director was, however, in a         Grevin therefore despatched the sub-lieutenant to Troyes to

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
bring the director of the jury of that town. The emissary           the senator’s valet, and the justice of peace with his clerk.
went at full gallop, and soon returned in a post-carriage with      The chateau had already been examined; the justice, assisted
the all-powerful magistrate.                                        by Grevin, had carefully collected the first testimony. The
  The director of the Troyes jury was formerly secretary of         first thing that struck him was the obvious intention shown
one of the committees of the Convention, a friend of Malin,         in the choice of the day and hour for the attack. The hour
to whom he owed his present place. This magistrate, named           prevented an immediate search for proofs and traces. At this
Lechesneau, had helped Malin, as Grevin had done, in his            season it was nearly dark by half-past five, the hour at which
work on the Code during the Convention. Malin in return             Violette gave the alarm, and darkness often means impunity
recommended him to Cambaceres, who appointed him at-                to evil-doers. The choice of a holiday, when most persons
torney-general for Italy. Unfortunately for him, Lechesneau         had gone to the masquerade at Arcis, and the senator was
had a liaison with a great lady in Turin, and Napoleon re-          comparatively alone in the house, showed an obvious inten-
moved him to avoid a criminal trial threatened by the hus-          tion to get rid of witnesses.
band. Lechesneau, bound in gratitude to Malin, felt the im-           “Let us do justice to the intelligence of the prefecture of
portance of this attack upon his patron, and brought with           police,” said Lechesneau; “they have never ceased to warn us
him a captain of gendarmerie and twelve men.                        to be on our guard against the nobles at Cinq-Cygne; they
  Before starting he laid his plans with the prefect, who was       have always declared that sooner or later those people would
unable at that late hour, it being after dark, to use the tele-     play us some dangerous trick.”
graph. They therefore sent a mounted messenger to Paris to            Sure of the active co-operation of the prefect of the Aube,
notify the minister of police, the chief justice and the Em-        who sent messengers to all the surrounding prefectures ask-
peror of this extraordinary crime. In the salon of Gondreville,     ing them to search for the five abductors and the senator,
Lechesneau found Mesdames Marion and Grevin, Violette,              Lechesneau began his work by verifying the first facts. This

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                                                               Balzac
was soon done by the help of two such legal heads as those            cate keys with him,” remarked Grevin. “No doubt he has
of Grevin and the justice of peace. The latter, named Pigoult,        been meditating a desperate step, for he has lately sold his
formerly head-clerk in the office where Malin and Grevin              whole property, and he received the money for it in my of-
had first studied law in Paris, was soon after appointed judge        fice day before yesterday.”
of the municipal court at Arcis. In relation to Michu,                   “The others have followed his lead!” exclaimed Lechesneau,
Lechesneau knew of the threats the man had made about                 struck with the circumstances. “He has been their evil genius.”
the sale of Gondreville to Marion, and the danger Malin had              Moreover, who could know as well as the Messieurs de
escaped in his own park from Michu’s gun. These two facts,            Simeuse the ins and outs of the chateau. None of the assail-
one being the consequence of the other, were no doubt the             ants seemed to have blundered in their search; they had gone
precursors of the present successful attack, and they pointed         through the house in a confident way which showed that
so obviously to the late bailiff as the instigator of the outrage     they knew what they wanted to find and where to find it.
that Grevin, his wife, Violette, and Madame Marion declared           The locks of none of the opened closets had been forced;
that they had recognized among the five masked men one                therefore the delinquents had keys. Strange to say, however,
who exactly resembled Michu. The color of the hair and                nothing had been taken; the motive, therefore, was not rob-
whiskers and the thick-set figure of the man made the mask            bery. More than all, when Violette had followed the tracks
he wore useless. Besides, who but Michu could have opened             of the horses as far as the rond-point, he had found the count-
the iron gates of the park with a key? The present bailiff and        ess, evidently on guard, at the pavilion. From such a combi-
his wife, now returned from the masquerade, deposed to have           nation of facts and depositions arose a presumption as to the
locked both gates before leaving the pavilion. The gates when         guilt of the Messieurs de Simeuse, d’Hauteserre, and Michu,
examined showed no sign of being forced.                              which would have been strong to unprejudiced minds, and
  “When we turned him off he must have taken some dupli-              to the director of the jury had the force of certainty. What

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                                                       An Historical Mystery
were they likely to do to the future Comte de Gondreville?               “The Emperor pardoned those young men,” said Pigoult to
Did they mean to force him to make over the estate for which           Grevin. “He removed their names from the list of emigres, though
Michu declared in 1799 he had the money to pay?                        they certainly took part in that last conspiracy against him.”
  But there was another aspect of the cast to the knowing                Lechesneau make no delay in sending his whole force of
criminal lawyer. He asked himself what could be the object             gendarmerie to the forest and to the valley of Cinq-Cygne;
of the careful search made of the chateau. If revenge were at          telling Giguet to take with him the justice of peace, who,
the bottom of the matter, the assailants would have killed             according to the terms of the Code, would then become an
the senator. Perhaps he had been killed and buried. The ab-            auxiliary police-officer. He ordered them to make all pre-
duction, however, seemed to point to imprisonment. But                 liminary inquiries in the township of Cinq-Cygne, and to
why keep their victim imprisoned after searching the castle?           take testimony if necessary; and to save time, he dictated
It was folly to suppose that the abduction of a dignitary of           and signed a warrant for the arrest of Michu, against whom
the Empire could long remain secret. The publicity of the              the charge was evident on the positive testimony of Violette.
matter would prevent any benefit from it.                              After the departure of the gendarmes Lechesneau returned
  To these suggestions Pigoult replied that justice was never able     to the important question of issuing warrants for the arrest
to make out all the motives of scoundrels. In every criminal case      of the Simeuse and d’Hauteserre brothers. According to the
there were obscurities, he said, between the judge and the guilty      Code these warrants would have to contain the charges against
person; conscience had depths into which no human mind could           the delinquents.
enter unless by the confession of the criminal.                          Giguet and the justice of peace rode so rapidly to Cinq-
  Grevin and Lechesneau nodded their assent, without, how-             Cygne that they met Laurence’s servants returning from the
ever, relaxing their determination to see to the bottom of the         festivities at Troyes. Stopped, and taken before the mayor where
present mystery.                                                       they were interrogated, they all stated, being ignorant of the

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                                                             Balzac
importance of the answer, that their mistress had given them        keeping with what he knew of the judgment and character
permission to spend the whole day at Troyes. To a question          of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. He imagined in his own
put by the justice of the peace, each replied that Mademoiselle     mind some other motives for the deed than the restitution
had offered them the amusement which they had not thought           of Gondreville. In all things, even in the magistracy, there is
of asking for. This testimony seemed so important to the jus-       what may be called the conscience of a calling. Lechesneau’s
tice of the peace that he sent back a messenger to Gondreville      perplexities came from this conscience, which all men put
to advise Lechesneau to proceed himself to Cinq-Cygne and           into the proper performance of the duties they like—scien-
arrest the four gentlemen, while he went to Michu’s farm, so        tific men into science, artists into art, judges into the render-
that the five arrests might be made simultaneously.                 ing of justice. Perhaps for this reason judges are really greater
   This new element was so convincing that Lechesneau               safeguards for persons accused of wrong-doing than are ju-
started at once for Cinq-Cygne. He knew well what pleasure          ries. A magistrate relies only on reason and its laws; juries are
would be felt in Troyes at such proceedings against the old         floated to and fro by the waves of sentiment. The director of
nobles, the enemies of the people, now become the enemies           the jury accordingly set several questions before his mind,
of the Emperor. In such circumstances a magistrate is very          resolving to find in their solution satisfactory reasons for
apt to take mere presumptive evidence for actual proof. Nev-        making the arrests.
ertheless, on his way from Gondreville to Cinq-Cygne, in               Though the news of the abduction was already agitating
the senator’s own carriage, it did occur to Lechesneau (who         the town of Troyes, it was still unknown at Arcis, where the
would certainly have made a fine magistrate had it not been         inhabitants were supping when the messenger arrived to sum-
for his love-affair, and the Emperor’s sudden morality to           mon the gendarmes. No one, of course, knew it in the vil-
which he owed his disgrace) to think the audacity of the            lage of Cinq-Cygne, the valley and the chateau of which were
young men and Michu a piece of folly which was not in               now, for the second time, encircled by gendarmes.

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
  Laurence had only to tell Marthe, Catherine, and the                Michu saw Gothard with the sack on his shoulder and
Durieus not to leave the chateau, to be strictly obeyed. After      called to him from a distance: “It is all finished, my lad; take
each trip to fetch the gold, the horses were fastened in the        that back and stay and dine with us.”
covered way opposite to the breach in the moat, and from              Michu, his face perspiring, his clothes soiled with plaster and
there Robert and Michu, the strongest of the party, carried         covered with fragments of muddy stone from the breach, reached
the sacks through the breach to a cellar under the staircase in     home joyfully and entered the kitchen where Marthe and her
the tower called Mademoiselle’s. Reaching the chateau with          mother were serving the soup in expectation of his coming.
the last load about half-past five o’clock, the four gentlemen        Just as Michu was turning the faucet of the water-pipe in-
and Michu proceeded to bury the treasure in the floor of the        tending to wash his hands, the justice of peace entered the
cellar and then to wall up the entrance. Michu took charge          house accompanied by his clerk and the forester.
of the matter with Gothard to help him; the lad was sent to           “What have you come for, Monsieur Pigoult?” asked
the farm for some sacks of plaster left over when the new           Michu.
buildings were put up, and Marthe went with him to show               “In the name of the Emperor and the laws, I arrest you,”
him where they were. Michu, very hungry, made such haste            replied the justice.
that by half-past seven o’clock the work was done; and he             The three gendarmes entered the kitchen leading Gothard.
started for home at a quick pace to stop Gothard, who had           Seeing the silver lace on their hats Marthe and her mother
been sent for another sack of plaster which he thought he           looked at each other in terror.
might want. The farm was already watched by the forester of           “Pooh! why?” asked Michu, who sat down at the table and
Cinq-Cygne, the justice of peace, his clerk and four gen-           called to his wife, “Give me something to eat; I’m famished.”
darmes who, however, kept out of sight and allowed him to             “You know why as well as we do,” said the justice, making
enter the house without seeing them.                                a sign to his clerk to begin the proces-verbal and exhibiting

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the warrant of arrest.                                              Michu bit his lips and resolved to say no more. Gothard
  “Well, well, Gothard, you needn’t stare so,” said Michu.        imitated him. Seeing the uselessness of all attempts to make
“Do you want some dinner, yes or no? Let them write down          them talk, and knowing what the neighborhood chose to
their nonsense.”                                                  call Michu’s perversity, the justice ordered the gendarmes to
  “You admit, of course, the condition of your clothes?” said     bind his hands and those of Gothard, and take them both to
the justice of peace; “and you can’t deny the words you said      the chateau, whither he now went himself to rejoin the di-
just now to Gothard?”                                             rector of the jury.
  Michu, supplied with food by his wife, who was amazed at
his coolness, was eating with the avidity of a hungry man. He
made no answer to the justice, for his mouth was full and his
heart innocent. Gothard’s appetite was destroyed by fear.
  “Look here,” said the forester, going up to Michu and whis-
pering in his ear: “What have you done with the senator?
You had better make a clean breast of it, for if we are to
believe these people it is a matter of life or death to you.”
  “Good God!” cried Marthe, who overheard the last words
and fell into a chair as if annihilated.
  “Violette must have played us some infamous trick,” cried
Michu, recollecting what Laurence had said in the forest.
  “Ha! so you do know that Violette saw you?” said the jus-
tice of peace.

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                                                  An Historical Mystery
                    CHAPTER XIV                                   Catherine entered to announce dinner. Laurence took Mon-
                                                                  sieur d’Hauteserre’s arm, smiling for a moment at the neces-
                    THE ARRESTS                                   sity she thus forced upon her cousins to offer an arm to
                                                                  Madame d’Hauteserre, who, according to agreement, was
THE FOUR YOUNG MEN and Laurence were so hungry and the            now to be the arbiter of their fate.
dinner so acceptable that they would not delay it by chang-          The Marquis de Simeuse took in Madame d’Hauteserre.
ing their dress. They entered the salon, she in her riding-       The situation was so momentous that after the Benedicite
habit, they in their white leather breeches, high-top boots       was said Laurence and the young men trembled from the
and green-cloth jackets, where they found Monsieur                violent palpitation of their hearts. Madame d’Hauteserre, who
d’Hauteserre and his wife, not a little uneasy at their long      carved, was struck by the anxiety on the faces of the Simeuse
absence. The goodman had noticed their goings and comings,        brothers and the great alteration that was noticeable in
and, above all, their evident distrust of him, for Laurence       Laurence’s lamb-like features.
had been unable to get rid of him as she had of her servants.        “Something extraordinary is going on, I am sure of it!” she
Once when his own sons evidently avoided making any re-           exclaimed, looking at all of them.
ply to his questions, he went to his wife and said, “I am            “To whom are you speaking?” asked Laurence.
afraid that Laurence may still get us into trouble!”                 “To all of you,” said the old lady.
  “What sort of game did you hunt to-day?” said Madame               “As for me, mother,” said Robert, “I am frightfully hun-
d’Hauteserre to Laurence.                                         gry, and that is not extraordinary.”
  “Ah!” replied the young girl, laughing, “you’ll hear some          Madame d’Hauteserre, still troubled, offered the Marquis
day what a strange hunt your sons have joined in to-day.”         de Simeuse a plate intended for his brother.
  Though said in jest the words made the old lady tremble.           “I am like your mother,” she said. “I don’t know you apart

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                                                            Balzac
even by your cravats. I thought I was helping your brother.”          “Innocent or guilty,” said the abbe, “mount your horses and
   “You have helped me better than you thought for,” said          make for the frontier. There you can prove your innocence.
the youngest, turning pale; “you have made him Comte de            You could overcome a sentence by default; you will never over-
Cinq-Cygne.”                                                       come a sentence rendered by popular passion and instigated
   “What! do you mean to tell me the countess has made her         by prejudice. Remember the words of President de Harlay, ‘If
choice?” cried Madame d’Hauteserre.                                I were accused of carrying off the towers of Notre-Dame the
   “No,” said Laurence; “we left the decision to fate and you      first thing I should do would be to run away.’”
are its instrument.”                                                  “To run away would be to admit we were guilty,” said the
   She told of the agreement made that morning. The elder          Marquis de Simeuse.
Simeuse, watching the increasing pallor of his brother’s face,        “Don’t do it!” cried Laurence.
was momentarily on the point of crying out, “Marry her; I             “Always the same sublime folly!” exclaimed the abbe, in
will go away and die!” Just then, as the dessert was being         despair. “If I had the power of God I would carry you away.
served, all present heard raps upon the window of the din-         But if I am found here in this state they will turn my visit
ing-room on the garden side. The eldest d’Hauteserre opened        against you, and against me too; therefore I leave you by the
it and gave entrance to the abbe, whose breeches were torn         way I came. Consider my advice; you have still time. The
in climbing over the walls of the park.                            gendarmes have not yet thought of the wall which adjoins
   “Fly! they are coming to arrest you,” he cried.                 the parsonage; but you are hemmed in on the other sides.”
   “Why?”                                                             The sound of many feet and the jangle of the sabres of the
   “I don’t know yet; but there’s a warrant against you.”          gendarmerie echoed through the courtyard and reached the
   The words were greeted with general laughter.                   dining-room a few moments after the departure of the poor
   “We are innocent,” said the young men.                          abbe, whose advice had met the same fate as that of the

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                                                      An Historical Mystery
Marquis de Chargeboeuf.                                                  The mayor offered bail, asking the countess to merely give
  “Our twin existence,” said the younger Simeuse, speaking            her word of honor that she would not escape. Laurence
to Laurence, “is an anomaly—our love for you is anoma-                blasted him with a look which made him a mortal enemy; a
lous; it is that very quality which was won your heart. Possi-        tear started from her eyes, one of those tears of rage which
bly, the reason why all twins known to us in history have             reveal a hell of suffering. The four gentlemen exchanged a
been unfortunate is that the laws of nature are subverted in          terrible look, but remained motionless. Monsieur and Ma-
them. In our case, see how persistently an evil fate follows          dame d’Hauteserre, dreading lest the young people had prac-
us! your decision is now postponed.”                                  tised some deceit, were in a state of indescribable stupefac-
  Laurence was stupefied; the fatal words of the director of          tion. Clinging to their chairs these unfortunate parents, find-
the jury hummed in her ears:—”In the name of the Em-                  ing their sons torn from them after so many fears and their
peror and the laws, I arrest the Sieurs Paul-Marie and Marie-         late hopes of safety, sat gazing before them without seeing,
Paul Simeuse, Adrien and Robert d’Hauteserre—These                    listening without hearing.
gentlemen,” he added, addressing the men who accompa-                    “Must I ask you to bail me, Monsieur d’Hauteserre?” cried
nied him and pointing to the mud on the clothing of the               Laurence to her former guardian, who was roused by the cry,
prisoners, “cannot deny that they have spent the greater part         clear and agonizing to his ear as the sound of the last trumpet.
of this day on horseback.”                                               He tried to wipe the tears which sprang to his eyes; he now
  “Of what are they accused?” asked Mademoiselle de Cinq-             understood what was passing, and said to his young relation
Cygne, haughtily.                                                     in a quivering voice, “Forgive me, countess; you know that I
  “Don’t you mean to arrest Mademoiselle?” said Giguet.               am yours, body and soul.”
  “I shall leave her at liberty under bail, until I can carefully        Lechesneau, who at first was much struck by the evident
examine the charges against her,” replied the director.               tranquillity in which the whole party were dining, now re-

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                                                            Balzac
turned to his former opinion of their guilt as he noticed the      up in some wall,” said Pigoult.
stupefaction of the old people and the evident anxiety of            “I begin to fear it,” answered Lechesneau. “Where did you
Laurence, who was seeking to discover the nature of the trap       carry that plaster?” he said to Gothard.
which was set for them.                                              The boy began to cry.
  “Gentlemen,” he said, politely, “you are too well-bred to          “The law frightens him,” said Michu, whose eyes were dart-
make a useless resistance; follow me to the stables, where I       ing flames like those of a lion in the toils.
must, in your presence, have the shoes of your horses taken          The servants, who had been detained at the village by or-
off; they afford important proof of either guilt or innocence.     der of the mayor, now arrived and filled the antechamber
Come, too, mademoiselle.”                                          where Catherine and Gothard were weeping. To all the ques-
  The blacksmith of Cinq-Cygne and his assistant had been          tions of the director of the jury and the justice of peace
summoned by Lechesneau as experts. While the operation             Gothard replied by sobs; and by dint of weeping he brought
at the stable was going on the justice of peace brought in         on a species of convulsion which alarmed them so much
Gothard and Michu. The work of detaching the shoes of              that they let him alone. The little scamp, perceiving that he
each horse, putting them together and ticketing them, so as        was no longer watched, looked at Michu with a grin, and
to compare them with the hoof-prints in the park, took time.       Michu signified his approval by a glance. Lechesneau left
Lechesneau, notified of the arrival of Pigoult, left the pris-     the justice of peace and returned to the stables.
oners with the gendarmes and returned to the dining-room             “Monsieur,” said Madame d’Hauteserre, at last, address-
to dictate the indictment. The justice of peace called his at-     ing Pigoult; “can you explain these arrests?”
tention to the condition of Michu’s clothes and related the          “The gentlemen are accused of abducting the senator by armed
circumstances of his arrest.                                       force and keeping him a prisoner; for we do not think they have
  “They must have killed the senator and plastered the body        murdered him—in spite of appearances,” replied Pigoult.

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                                                  An Historical Mystery
  “What penalties are attached to the crime?” asked Mon-            The word excited a general terror, of which Giguet, for-
sieur d’Hauteserre.                                               merly instructed by Corentin, took immediate advantage.
  “Well, as the old law continues in force, and they are not        “Everything can be arranged,” he said, drawing the Mar-
amenable under the Code, the penalty is death,” replied the       quis de Simeuse into a corner of the dining-room. “Perhaps
justice.                                                          after all it is nothing but a joke; you’ve been a soldier and
  “Death!” cried Madame d’Hauteserre, fainting away.              soldiers understand each other. Tell me, what have you really
  The abbe now came in with his sister, who stopped to speak      done with the senator? If you have killed him —why, that’s
to Catherine and Madame Durieu.                                   the end of it! But if you have only locked him up, release
  “We haven’t even seen your cursed senator!” said Michu.         him, for you see for yourself your game is balked. Do this
  “Madame Marion, Madame Grevin, Monsieur Grevin, the             and I am certain the director of the jury and the senator
senator’s valet, and Violette all tell another tale,” replied     himself will drop the matter.”
Pigoult, with the sour smile of magisterial conviction.             “We know absolutely nothing about it,” said the marquis.
  “I don’t understand a thing about it,” said Michu, dumb-          “If you take that tone the matter is likely to go far,” replied
founded by his reply, and beginning now to believe that his       the lieutenant.
masters and himself were entangled in some plot which had           “Dear cousin,” said the Marquis de Simeuse, “we are forced
been laid against them.                                           to go to prison; but do not be uneasy; we shall return in a
  Just then the party from the stables returned. Laurence         few hours, for there is some misunderstanding in all this
went up to Madame d’Hauteserre, who recovered her senses          which can be explained.”
enough to say: “The penalty is death!”                              “I hope so, for your sakes, gentlemen,” said the magis-
  “Death!” repeated Laurence, looking at the four gentle-         trate, signing to the gendarmes to remove the four gentle-
men.                                                              men, Michu, and Gothard. “Don’t take them to Troyes; keep

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                                                           Balzac
them in your guardhouse at Arcis,” he said to the lieutenant;       Laurence left the room without replying. She needed soli-
“they must be present to-morrow, at daybreak, when we com-        tude to recover strength in presence of this terrible unfore-
pare the shoes of their horses with the hoof-prints in the        seen disaster.
park.”
  Lechesneau and Pigoult did not follow until they had
closely questioned Catherine, Monsieur and Madame
d’Hauteserre, and Laurence. The Durieus, Catherine, and
Marthe declared they had only seen their masters at break-
fast-time; Monsieur d’Hauteserre said he had seen them at
three o’clock.
  When, at midnight, Laurence found herself alone with
Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, the abbe and his sis-
ter, and without the four young men who for the last eigh-
teen months had been the life of the chateau and the love
and joy of her own life, she fell into a gloomy silence which
no one present dared to break. No affliction was ever deeper
or more complete than hers. At last a deep sigh broke the
stillness, and all eyes turned towards the sound.
  Marthe, forgotten in a corner, rose, exclaiming, “Death!
They will kill them in spite of their innocence!”
  “Mademoiselle, what is the matter with you?” said the abbe.

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                                                   An Historical Mystery
                     CHAPTER XV                                    poleon sent for the chief justice, who, after obtaining certain
                                                                   information from the ministry of police, explained to his
     DOUBTS AND FEARS OF COUNSEL                                   Majesty the position of Malin in regard to the Simeuse broth-
                                                                   ers and the Gondreville estate. The Emperor, at that time
AT A DISTANCE OF THIRTY-FOUR YEARS, during which three great       pre-occupied with serious matters, considered the affair ex-
revolutions have taken place, none but elderly persons can         plained by these anterior facts.
recall the immense excitement produced in Europe by the              “Those young men are fools,” he said. “A lawyer like Malin
abduction of a senator of the French Empire. No trial, if we       will escape any deed they may force him to sign under vio-
except that of Trumeaux, the grocer of the Place Saint-Michel,     lence. Watch those nobles, and discover the means they take
and that of the widow Morin, under the Empire; those of            to set the Comte de Gondreville at liberty.”
Fualdes and de Castaing, under the Restoration; those of             He ordered the affair to be conducted with the utmost
Madame Lafarge and Fieschi, under the present government,          celerity, regarding it as an attack on his own institutions, a
ever roused so much curiosity or so deep an interest as that       fatal example of resistance to the results of the Revolution,
of the four young men accused of abducting Malin. Such an          an effort to open the great question of the sales of “national
attack against a member of his Senate excited the wrath of         property,” and a hindrance to that fusion of parties which
the Emperor, who was told of the arrest of the delinquents         was the constant object of his home policy. Besides all this,
almost at the moment when he first heard of the crime and          he thought himself tricked by these young nobles, who had
the negative results of the inquiries. The forest, searched        given him their promise to live peaceably.
throughout, the department of the Aube, ransacked from               “Fouche’s prediction has come true,” he cried, remember-
end to end, gave not the slightest indication of the passage       ing the words uttered two years earlier by his present minis-
of the Comte de Gondreville nor of his imprisonment. Na-           ter of police, who said them under the impressions conveyed

                                                                 138
                                                             Balzac
to him by Corentin’s report as to the character and designs         all official stations; and they were also inquiring into the
of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.                                      character of the persons composing the magistracy. Natu-
  It is impossible for persons living under a constitutional        rally, therefore, the officials of the department of the Aube
government, where no one really cares for that cold and             considered they could have no better recommendation than
thankless, blind, deaf Thing called public interest, to imag-       to give proofs of their zeal in the matter of the abduction of
ine the zeal which a mere word of the Emperor was able to           the Comte de Gondreville. Napoleon’s suppositions became
inspire in his political or administrative machine. That pow-       certainties to these courtiers and also to the populace.
erful will seemed to impress itself as much upon things as            Peace still reigned on the continent; admiration for the
upon men. His decision once uttered, the Emperor, over-             Emperor was unanimous in France; he cajoled all interests,
taken by the coalition of 1806, forgot the whole matter. He         persons, vanities, and things, in short, everything, even
thought only of new battles to fight, and his mind was occu-        memories. This attack, therefore, directed against his sena-
pied in massing his regiments to strike the great blow at the       tor, seemed in the eyes of all an assault upon the public wel-
heart of the Prussian monarchy. His desire for prompt jus-          fare. The luckless and innocent gentlemen were the objects
tice in the present case found powerful assistance in the great     of general opprobrium. A few nobles living quietly on their
uncertainty which affected the position of all magistrates of       estates deplored the affair among themselves but dared not
the Empire. Just at this time Cambaceres, as arch-chancel-          open their lips; in fact, how was it possible for them to op-
lor, and Regnier, chief justice, were preparing to organize         pose the current of public opinion. Throughout the depart-
tribunaux de premiere instance (lower civil courts), imperial       ment the deaths of the eleven persons killed by the Simeuse
courts, and a court of appeal or supreme court. They were           brothers in 1792 from the windows of the hotel Cinq-Cygne
agitating the question of a legal garb or costume; to which         were brought up against them. It was feared that other re-
Napoleon attached, and very justly, so much importance in           turned and now emboldened emigres might follow this ex-

                                                                  139
                                                    An Historical Mystery
ample of violence against those who had bought their estates        his sister who moved into it. Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne,
from the “national domain,” as a method of protesting against       with Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, went to Troyes
what they might call an unjust spoliation.                          and occupied a small house belonging to Durieu in one of
  The unfortunate young nobles were therefore considered            the long and wide faubourgs which lead from the little town.
as robbers, brigands, murderers; and their connection with          Laurence’s heart was wrung when she at last comprehended
Michu was particularly fatal to them. Michu, who was de-            the temper of the populace, the malignity of the bourgeoi-
clared, either he or his father-in-law, to have cut off all the     sie, and the hostility of the administration, from the many
heads that fell under the Terror in that department, was made       little events which happened to them as relatives of prisoners
the subject of ridiculous tales. The exasperation of the pub-       accused of criminal wrong-doing and about to be judged in
lic mind was all the more intense because nearly all the func-      a provincial town. Instead of hearing encouraging or com-
tionaries of the department owed their offices to Malin. No         passionate words they heard only speeches which called for
generous voice uplifted itself against the verdict of the pub-      vengeance; proofs of hatred surrounded them in place of the
lic. Besides all this, the accused had no legal means with          strict politeness or the reserve required by mere decency; but
which to combat prejudice; for the Code of Brumaire, year           above all they were conscious of an isolation which every
IV., giving as it did both the prosecution of a charge and the      mind must feel, but more particularly those which are made
verdict upon it into the hands of a jury, deprived the accused      distrustful by misfortune.
of the vast protection of an appeal against legal suspicion.          Laurence, who had recovered her vigor of mind, relied upon
   The day after the arrest all the inhabitants of the chateau      the innocence of the accused, and despised the community
of Cinq-Cygne, both masters and servants, were summoned             too much to be frightened by the stern and silent disapproval
to appear before the prosecuting jury. Cinq-Cygne was left          they met with everywhere. She sustained the courage of
in charge of a farmer, under the supervision of the abbe and        Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, all the while thinking

                                                                  140
                                                             Balzac
of the judicial struggle which was now being hurried on. She        present trial, became eventually one of the most celebrated
was, however, to receive a blow she little expected, which,         of French magistrates. Monsieur de Grandville, for that was
undoubtedly, diminished her courage.                                his name, accepted the defence of the four young men, be-
  In the midst of this great disaster, at the moment when           ing glad of an opportunity to make his first appearance as an
this afflicted family were made to feel themselves, as it were,     advocate with distinction.
in a desert, a man suddenly became exalted in Laurence’s              The old marquis, alarmed at the ravages which troubles
eyes and showed the full beauty of his character. The day           had wrought in Laurence’s appearance, was charmingly kind
after the indictment was found by the jury, and the prison-         and considerate. He made no allusion to his neglected ad-
ers were finally committed for trial, the Marquis de                vice; he presented Bordin as an oracle whose counsel must
Chargeboeuf courageously appeared, still in the same old            be followed to the letter, and young de Grandville as a de-
caleche, to support and protect his young cousin. Foreseeing        fender in whom the utmost confidence might be placed.
the haste with which the law would be administered, this              Laurence held out her hand to the kind old man, and
chief of a great family had already gone to Paris and secured       pressed his with an eagerness which delighted him.
the services of the most able as well as the most honest law-         “You were right,” she said.
yer of the old school, named Bordin, who was for ten years            “Will you now take my advice?” he asked.
counsel of the nobility in Paris, and was ultimately succeeded        The young countess bowed her head in assent, as did Mon-
by the celebrated Derville. This excellent lawyer chose for         sieur and Madame d’Hauteserre.
his assistant the grandson of a former president of the parlia-       “Well, then, come to my house; it is in the middle of town,
ment of Normandy, whose studies had been made under his             close to the courthouse. You and your lawyers will be better
tuition. This young lawyer, who was destined to be appointed        off there than here, where you are crowded and too far from
deputy-attorney-general in Paris after the conclusion of the        the field of battle. Here, you would have to cross the town

                                                                  141
                                                     An Historical Mystery
twice a day.”                                                        judged by the counsellors engaged in them, just as the death
  Laurence, accepted, and the old man took her with Ma-              or life or a patient is foreseen by a physician, before the final
dame d’Hauteserre to his house, which became the home of             struggle which the one sustains against nature, the other
the Cinq-Cygne household and the lawyers of the defence              against law. Laurence, Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre,
during the whole time the trial lasted. After dinner, when the       and the marquis sat with their eyes fixed on the swarthy and
doors were closed, Bordin made Laurence relate every circum-         deeply pitted face of the old lawyer, who was now to pro-
stance of the affair, entreating her to omit nothing, not the        nounce the words of life or death. Monsieur d’Hauteserre
most trifling detail. Though many of the facts had already           wiped the sweat from his brow. Laurence looked at the
been told to him and his young assistant by the marquis on           younger man and noted his saddened face.
their journey from Paris to Troyes, Bordin listened, his feet on       “Well, my dear Bordin?” said the marquis at last, holding
the fender, without obtruding himself into the recital. The          out his snuffbox, from which the old lawyer took a pinch in
young lawyer, however, could not help being divided between          an absent-minded way.
his admiration for Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, and the at-             Bordin rubbed the calf of his leg, covered with thick stock-
tention he was bound to give to the facts of his case.               ings of black raw silk, for he always wore black cloth breeches
  “Is that really all?” asked Bordin when Laurence had re-           and a coat made somewhat in the shape of those which are
lated the events of the drama just as the present narrative has      now termed a la Francaise. He cast his shrewd eyes upon his
given them up to the present time.                                   clients with an anxious expression, the effect of which was icy.
  “Yes,” she answered.                                                 “Must I analyze all that?” he said; “am I to speak frankly?”
  Profound silence reigned for several minutes in the salon            “Yes; go on, monsieur,” said Laurence.
of the Chargeboeuf mansion where this scene took place,—               “All that you have innocently done can be converted into
one of the most important which occur in life. All cases are         proof against you,” said the old lawyer. “We cannot save your

                                                                   142
                                                             Balzac
friends; we can only reduce the penalty. The sale which you         was made), who are our witnesses? Marthe, the wife of one
induced Michu to make of his property will be taken as evi-         of the accused, the Durieus, and Catherine, your own ser-
dent proof of your criminal intentions against the senator.         vants, and Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, father and
You sent your servants to Troyes so that you might be alone;        mother of two of the accused. Such testimony is valueless;
that is all the more plausible because it is actually true. The     the law does not admit it against you, and commonsense
elder d’Hauteserre made an unfortunate speech to Beauvisage,        rejects it when given in your favor. If, on the other hand,
which will be your ruin. You yourself, mademoiselle, made           you were to say you went to the forest to recover eleven hun-
another in your own courtyard, which proves that you have           dred thousand francs in gold, you would send the accused to
long shown ill-will to the possessor of Gondreville. Besides,       the galleys as robbers. Judge, jury, audience, and the whole
you were at the gate of the rond-point, apparently on the           of France would believe that you took that gold from
watch, about the time when the abduction took place; if             Gondreville, and abducted the senator that you might ran-
they have not arrested you, it is solely because they fear to       sack his house. The accusation as it now stands is not wholly
bring a sentimental element into the affair.”                       clear, but tell the truth about the matter and it would be-
  “The case cannot be successfully defended,” said Monsieur         come as plain as day; the jury would declare that the robbery
de Grandville.                                                      explained the mysterious features,—for in these days, you
  “The less so,” continued Bordin, “because we cannot tell          must remember, a royalist means a thief. This very case is
the whole truth. Michu and the Messieurs de Simeuse and             welcomed as a legitimate political vengeance. The prisoners
d’Hauteserre must hold to the assertion that you merely went        are now in danger of the death penalty; but that is not dis-
for an excursion into the forest and returned to Cinq-Cygne         honoring under some circumstances. Whereas, if they can
for luncheon. Allowing that we can show you were in the             be proved to have stolen money, which can never be made to
house at three o’clock (the exact hour at which the attack          seem excusable, you lose all benefit of whatever interest may

                                                                  143
                                                      An Historical Mystery
attach to persons condemned to death for other crimes. If,               “It is inexplicable to every one, even to us,” said Monsieur
at the first, you had shown the hiding-places of the treasure,        de Grandville. “If the prisoners are innocent some one else
the plan of the forest, the tubes in which the gold was buried,       has committed the crime. Five persons do not come to a
and the gold itself, as an explanation of your day’s work, it is      place as if by enchantment, obtain five horses shod precisely
possible you might have been believed by an impartial magis-          like those of the accused, imitate the appearance of some of
trate, but as it is we must be silent. God grant that none of the     them, and put Malin apparently underground for the sole
prisoners may reveal the truth and compromise the defence; if         purpose of casting suspicion on Michu and the four gentle-
they do, we must rely on our cross-examinations.”                     men. The unknown guilty parties must have had some strong
  Laurence wrung her hands in despair and raised her eyes             reason for wearing the skin, as it were, of five innocent men.
to heaven with a despondent look, for she saw at last in all its      To discover them, even to get upon their traces, we need as
depths the gulf into which her cousins had fallen. The mar-           much power as the government itself, as many agents and as
quis and the young lawyer agreed with the dreadful view of            many eyes as there are townships in a radius of fifty miles.”
Bordin. Old d’Hauteserre wept.                                          “The thing is impossible,” said Bordin. “There’s no use
  “Ah! why did they not listen to the Abbe Goujet and fly!”           thinking of it. Since society invented law it has never found
cried Madame d’Hauteserre, exasperated.                               a way to give an innocent prisoner an equal chance against a
  “If they could have escaped, and you prevented them,”               magistrate who is pre-disposed against him. Law is not bilat-
said Bordin, “you have killed them yourselves. Judgment by            eral. The defence, without spies or police, cannot call social
default gains time; time enables the innocent to clear them-          power to the rescue of its innocent clients. Innocence has
selves. This is the most mysterious case I have ever known in         nothing on her side but reason, and reasoning which may
my life, in the course of which I have certainly seen and             strike a judge is often powerless on the narrow minds of ju-
known many strange things.”                                           rymen. The whole department is against you. The eight ju-

                                                                    144
                                                             Balzac
rors who have signed the indictment are each and all pur-           But how could we, in the face of a hostile community, be-
chasers of national domain. Among the trial jurors we are           come accusers when we ourselves are the accused? We should
certain to have some who have either sold or bought the             need the help and good-will of the government and a thou-
same property. In short, we can get nothing but a Malin             sand times more proof than is wanted in ordinary circum-
jury. You must therefore set up a consistent defence, hold          stances. I am convinced there was premeditation, and subtle
fast to it, and perish in your innocence. You will certainly be     premeditation, on the part of our mysterious adversaries, who
condemned. But there’s a court of appeal; we will go there          must have known the situation of Michu and the Messieurs
and try to remain there as long as possible. If in the mean         de Simeuse towards Malin. Not to utter one word; not to
time we can collect proofs in your favor you must apply for         steal one thing!—remarkable prudence! I see something very
pardon. That’s the anatomy of the business, and my advice.          different from ordinary evil-doers behind those masks. But
If we triumph (for everything is possible in law) it will be a      what would be the use of saying so to the sort of jurors we
miracle; but your advocate Monsieur de Grandville is the            shall have to face?”
most likely man among all I know to produce that miracle,              This insight into hidden matters which gives such power to
and I’ll do my best to help him.”                                   certain lawyers and certain magistrates astonished and con-
   “The senator has the key to the mystery,” said Monsieur          founded Laurence; her heart was wrung by that inexorable logic.
de Grandville; “for a man knows his enemies and why they               “Out of every hundred criminal cases,” continued Bordin,
are so. Here we find him leaving Paris at the close of the          “there are not ten where the law really lays bare the truth to
winter, coming to Gondreville alone, shutting himself up            its full extent; and there is perhaps a good third in which the
with his notary, and delivering himself over, as one might          truth is never brought to light at all. Yours is one of those
say, to five men who seize him.”                                    cases which are inexplicable to all parties, to accused and
   “Certainly,” said Bordin, “his conduct seems inexplicable.       accusers, to the law and to the public. As for the Emperor,

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                                                  An Historical Mystery
he has other fish to fry than to consider the case of these         “We see certain chances,” said Monsieur de Grandville,
gentlemen, supposing even that they had not conspired             “and we shall study them carefully. If we are able to save
against him. But who the devil is Malin’s enemy? and what         these gentlemen it will be because Monsieur d’Hauteserre
has really been done with him?”                                   ordered Michu to repair one of the stone posts in the cov-
  Bordin and Monsieur de Grandville looked at each other;         ered way, and also because a wolf has been seen in the forest;
they seemed in doubt as to Laurence’s veracity. This evident      in a criminal court everything depends on discussions, and
suspicion was the most cutting of all the many pangs the girl     discussions often turn on trivial matters which then become
had suffered in the affair; and she turned upon the lawyers a     of immense importance.”
look which effectually put an end to their distrust.                Laurence sank into that inward dejection which humili-
  The next day the indictment was handed over to the              ates the soul of all thoughtful and energetic persons when
defence, and the lawyers were then enabled to communi-            the uselessness of thought and action is made manifest to
cate with the prisoners. Bordin informed the family that          them. It was no longer a matter of overthrowing a usurper,
the six accused men were “well supported,”—using a pro-           or of coming to the help of devoted friends,—fanatical sym-
fessional term.                                                   pathies wrapped in a shroud of mystery. She now saw all
  “Monsieur de Grandville will defend Michu,” said Bordin.        social forces full-armed against her cousins and herself. There
  “Michu!” exclaimed the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, amazed           was no taking a prison by assault with her own hands, no
at the change.                                                    deliverance of prisoners from the midst of a hostile popula-
  “He is the pivot of the affair—the danger lies there,” re-      tion and beneath the eyes of a watchful police. So, when the
plied the old lawyer.                                             young lawyer, alarmed at the stupor of the generous and noble
  “If he is more in danger than the others, I think that is       girl, which the natural expression of her face made still more
just,” cried Laurence.                                            noticeable, endeavored to revive her courage, she turned to

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him and said: “I must be silent; I suffer,—I wait.”                                     CHAPTER XVI
   The accent, gesture, and look with which the words were
said made this answer one of those sublime things which                            MARTHE INVEIGLED
only need a wider stage to make them famous.
   A few moments later old d’Hauteserre was saying to the           WHILE THE MASTERS of Cinq-Cygne were waiting at Troyes
Marquis de Chargeboeuf: “What efforts I have made for my            for the opening of the trial before the Criminal court and
two unfortunate sons! I have already laid by in the Funds           vainly soliciting permission to see the prisoners, an event of
enough to give them eight thousand francs a year. If they           the utmost importance had taken place at the chateau.
had only been willing to serve in the army they would have            Marthe returned to Cinq-Cygne as soon as she had given
reached the higher grades by this time, and could now have          her testimony before the indicting jury. This testimony was
married to advantage. Instead of that, all my plans are scat-       so insignificant that it was not thought necessary to sum-
tered to the winds!”                                                mon her before the Criminal court. Like all persons of ex-
   “How can you,” said his wife, “think of their interests when     treme sensibility, the poor woman sat silent in the salon,
it is a question of their honor and their lives?”                   where she kept company with Mademoiselle Goujet, in a
   “Monsieur d’Hauteserre thinks of everything,” said the           pitiable state of stupefaction. To her, as to the abbe, and in-
marquis.                                                            deed to all others who did not know how the accused had
                                                                    been employed on that day, their innocence seemed doubt-
                                                                    ful. There were moments when Marthe believed that Michu
                                                                    and his masters and Laurence had executed vengeance on
                                                                    the senator. The unhappy woman now knew Michu’s devo-
                                                                    tion well enough to be certain that he was the one who would

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                                                         An Historical Mystery
be most in danger, not only because of his antecedents, but                 They passed through the breach so as to take the shortest
because of the part he was sure to have taken in the execu-               path. In the darkness it was impossible for Marthe to distin-
tion of the scheme.                                                       guish anything more than the form of a person which loomed
  The Abbe Goujet and his sister and Marthe were bewil-                   through the shadows.
dered among the possibilities to which this opinion gave rise;              “Speak, madame; so that I may be certain you are really
and yet, in the process of thinking them over, their minds                Madame Michu,” said the person, in a rather anxious voice.
insensibly took hold of them in a certain way. The absolute                 “I am Madame Michu,” said Marthe; “what do you want
doubt which Descartes demands can no more exist in the                    of me?”
brain of a man than a vacuum can exist in nature, and the                   “Very good,” said the unknown, “give me your hand; do
mental operation required to produce it would, like the ef-               not fear me. I come,” he added, leaning towards her and
fect of a pneumatic machine, be exceptional and anoma-                    speaking low, “from Michu with a note for you. I am em-
lous. Whatever a case may be, the mind believes in some-                  ployed at the prison, and if my superiors discover my ab-
thing. Now Marthe was so afraid that the accused were guilty              sence we shall all be lost. Trust me; your good father placed
that her fear became equivalent to belief; and this condition             me where I am. For that reason Michu counted on my help-
of her mind proved fatal to her.                                          ing him.”
  Five days after the arrests, just as she was in the act of going to       He put the letter into Marthe’s hand and disappeared to-
bed about ten o’clock at night, she was called from the court-            ward the forest without waiting for an answer. Marthe
yard by her mother, who had come from the farm on foot.                   trembled at the thought that she was now to hear the secret
  “A laboring man from Troyes wants to speak to you; he is                of the mystery. She ran to the farm with her mother and
sent by Michu, and is waiting in the covered way,” she said               shut herself up to read the following letter:—
to Marthe.

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My dear Marthe,—You can rely on the discretion of the             as you have read it, for it would cost me my head if a line
man who will give you this letter; he does not know how to        of it were seen. I kiss you for now and always,
read or to write. He is a stanch Republican, and shared in
Baboeuf’s conspiracy; your father often made use of him,                                     Michu.
and he regards the senator as a traitor. Now, my dear
wife, attend to my directions. The senator has been shut            The existence of the cave was known only to Marthe, her
up by us in the cave where our masters were hidden. The           son, Michu, the four gentlemen, and Laurence; or rather,
poor creature had provisions for only five days, and as it        Marthe, to whom her husband had not related the incident
is our interest that he should live, I wish you, as soon as       of his meeting with Peyrade and Corentin, believed it was
you receive this letter, to take him food for at least five       known only to them. Had she consulted her mistress and
days more. The forest is of course watched; therefore take        the two lawyers, who knew the innocence of the prisoners,
as many precautions as we formerly did for our young              the shrewd Bordin would have gained some light upon the
masters. Don’t say a word to Malin; don’t speak to him;           perfidious trap which was evidently laid for his clients. But
and put on one of our masks which you will find on the            Marthe, acting like most women under a first impulse, was
steps which lead down to the cave. Unless you wish to             convinced by this proof which came to her own eyes, and
compromise our heads you must be absolutely silent about          flung the letter into the fire as directed. Nevertheless, moved
this letter and the secret I have now confided to you. Don’t      by a singular gleam of caution, she caught a portion of it
say a word to Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, who might               from the flames, tore off the five first lines, which compro-
tell of it. Don’t fear for me. We are certain that the matter     mised no one, and sewed them into the hem of her dress.
will turn out well; when the time comes Malin himself will        Terrified at the thought that the prisoner had been without
save us. I don’t need to tell you to burn this letter as soon     food for twenty-four hours, she resolved to carry bread, meat,

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                                                    An Historical Mystery
and wine to him at once; curiosity was well as humanity             loosening the iron bar which held the door, it was securely
permitting no delay. Accordingly, she heated her oven and           fastened with a padlock.
made, with her mother’s help, a pate of hare and ducks, a rice        The senator, who had risen from his bed of moss, sighed
cake, roasted two fowls, selected three bottles of wine, and        when he saw the masked face and felt that there was no chance
baked two loaves of bread. About two in the morning she             then of his deliverance. He examined Marthe, as much as he
started for the forest, carrying the load on her back, accompa-     could by the unsteady light of her dark lantern, and he rec-
nied by Couraut, who in all such expeditions showed won-            ognized her by her clothes, her stoutness, and her motions.
derful sagacity as a guide. He scented strangers at immense         When she passed the pate through the door he dropped it to
distances, and as soon as he was certain of their presence he       seize her hand and then, with great swiftness, he tried to pull
returned to his mistress with a low growl, looking at her fix-      the rings from her fingers,—one her wedding-ring, the other
edly and turning his muzzle in the direction of the danger.         a gift from Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.
  Marthe reached the pond about three in the morning, and             “You cannot deny that it is you, my dear Madame Michu,”
left the dog as sentinel on the bank. After half an hour’s la-      he said.
bor in clearing the entrance she came with a dark lantern to          Marthe closed her fist the moment she felt his fingers, and
the door of the cave, her face covered with a mask, which she       gave him a vigorous blow in the chest. Then, without a word,
had found, as directed, on the steps. The imprisonment of           she turned away and cut a stick, at the end of which she held
the senator seemed to have been long premeditated. A hole           out to the senator the rest of the provisions.
about a foot square, which Marthe had never seen before,              “What do they want of me?” he asked.
was roughly cut in the upper part of the iron door which              Marthe departed giving him no answer. By five o’clock she
closed the cave; but in order to prevent Malin from using           had reached the edge of the forest and was warned by Couraut
the time and patience all prisoners have at their command in        of the presence of strangers. She retraced her steps and made

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                                                           Balzac
for the pavilion where she had lived so long; but just as she     oners,—for the trial was by that time begun. She took the
entered the avenue she was seen from afar by the forester of      abbe aside, and after obliging him to swear that he would
Gondreville, and she quickly reflected that her best plan was     keep the secret she was about to reveal as though it was said
to go straight up to him.                                         to him in the confessional, she showed him the fragments of
  “You are out early, Madame Michu,” he said, accosting           Michu’s letter, told him the contents of it, and also the secret
her.                                                              of the hiding-place where the senator then was.
  “We are so unfortunate,” she replied, “that I am obliged to       The abbe at once inquired if she had other letters from her
do a servant’s work myself. I am going to Bellache for some       husband that he might compare the writing. Marthe went
grain.”                                                           to her home to fetch them and there found a summons to
  “Haven’t you any at Cinq-Cygne?” said the forester.             appear in court. By the time she returned to the chateau the
  Marthe made no answer. She continued on her way and             abbe and his sister had received a similar summons on be-
reached the farm at Bellache, where she asked Beauvisage to       half of the defence. They were obliged therefore to start for
give her some seed-grain, saying that Monsieur d’Hauteserre       Troyes immediately. Thus all the personages of our drama,
advised her to get it from him to renew her crop. As soon as      even those who were only, as it were, supernumeraries, were
Marthe had left the farm, the forester went there to find out     collected on the spot where the fate of the two families was
what she asked for.                                               about to be decided.
  Six days later, Marthe, determined to be prudent, went at
midnight with her provisions so as to avoid the keepers who
were evidently patrolling the forest. After carrying a third
supply to the senator she suddenly became terrified on hear-
ing the abbe read aloud the public examination of the pris-

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                                                      An Historical Mystery
                     CHAPTER XVII                                     ministration of justice were instituted, a commissary of the
                                                                      government and the director of the jury each had a seat and
                       THE TRIAL                                      a table, one to the right, the other to the left of the baize-
                                                                      covered desk. Two sheriffs hovered about in the space left in
THERE ARE BUT FEW LOCALITIES in France where Law derives              front of the desk for the station of witnesses. Facing the judges
from outward appearance the dignity which ought always to             and against the wall above the entrance, there is always a
accompany it. Yet it surely is, after religion and royalty, the       shabby gallery reserved for officials and for women, to which
greatest engine of society. Everywhere, even in Paris, the            admittance is granted only by the president of the court, to
meanness of its surroundings, the wretched arrangement of             whom the proper management of the courtroom belongs.
the courtrooms, their barrenness and want of decoration in            The non-privileged public are compelled to stand in the
the most ornate and showy nation upon earth in the matter             empty space between the door of the hall and the bar. This
of its public monuments, lessens the action of the law’s mighty       normal appearance of all French law courts and assize-rooms
power. At the farther end of some oblong room may be seen             was that of the Criminal court of Troyes.
a desk with a green baize covering raised on a platform; be-            In April, 1806, neither the four judges nor the president
hind it sit the judges on the commonest of arm-chairs. To             (or chief-justice) who made up the court, nor the public pros-
the left, is the seat of the public prosecutor, and beside him,       ecutor, the director of the jury, the commissary of the gov-
close to the wall, is a long pen filled with chairs for the jury.     ernment, nor the sheriffs or lawyers, in fact no one except
Opposite to the jury is another pen with a bench for the              the gendarmes, wore any robes or other distinctive sign which
prisoners and the gendarmes who guard them. The clerk of              might have relieved the nakedness of the surroundings and
the court sits below the platform at a table covered with the         the somewhat meagre aspect of the figures. The crucifix was
papers of the case. Before the imperial changes in the ad-            suppressed; its example was no longer held up before the

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                                                              Balzac
eyes of justice and of guilt. All was dull and vulgar. The para-     ety, had somewhat paled. The perfect likeness of the twins
phernalia so necessary to excite social interest is perhaps a        excited the deepest interest. Perhaps the spectators thought
consolation to criminals. On this occasion the eagerness of          that Nature would exercise some special protection in the
the public was what it has ever been and ever will be in trials      case of her own anomalies, and felt ready to join in repairing
of this kind, so long as France refuses to recognize that the        the harm done to them by destiny. Their noble, simple faces,
admission of the public to the courts involves publicity, and        showing no signs of shame, still less of bravado, touched the
that the publicity given to trials is a terrible penalty which       women’s hearts. The four gentlemen and Gothard wore the
would never have been inflicted had legislators reflected on it.     clothes in which they had been arrested; but Michu, whose
Customs are often more cruel than laws. Customs are the deeds        coat and trousers were among the “articles of testimony,” so-
of men, but laws are the judgment of a nation. Customs in            called, had put on his best clothes,—a blue surtout, a brown
which there is often no judgment are stronger than laws.             velvet waistcoat a la Robespierre, and a white cravat. The
  Crowds surrounded the courtroom; the president was                 poor man paid the penalty of his dangerous-looking face.
obliged to station squads of soldiers to guard the doors. The        When he cast a glance of his yellow eye, so clear and so pro-
audience, standing below the bar, was so crowded that per-           found upon the audience, a murmur of repulsion answered
sons suffocated. Monsieur de Grandville, defending Michu,            it. The assembly chose to see the finger of God bringing him
Bordin, defending the Simeuse brothers, and a lawyer of              to the dock where his father-in-law had sacrificed so many
Troyes who appeared for the d’Hauteserres, were in their seats       victims. This man, truly great, looked at his masters, repress-
before the opening of the court; their faces wore a look of          ing a smile of scorn. He seemed to say to them, “I am injur-
confidence. When the prisoners were brought in, sympa-               ing your cause.” Five of the prisoners exchanged greetings
thetic murmurs were heard at the appearance of the young             with their counsel. Gothard still played the part of an idiot.
men, whose faces, in twenty days’ imprisonment and anxi-                After several challenges, made with much sagacity by the

                                                                   153
                                                       An Historical Mystery
defence under advice of the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, who                their presence at long distances from the house.
boldly took a seat beside Bordin and de Grandville, the jury             The examination of the Messieurs d’Hauteserre corrobo-
were empanelled, the indictment was read, and the prison-              rated this testimony, and was in harmony with their prelimi-
ers were brought up separately to be examined. They an-                nary dispositions. The necessity of some reason for their ride
swered every question with remarkable unanimity. After                 suggested to each of them the excuse of hunting. The peas-
riding about the forest all the morning they had returned to           ants had given warning, a few days earlier, of a wolf in the
Cinq-Cygne for breakfast at one o’clock. After that meal,              forest, and on that they had fastened as a pretext.
from three to half-past five in the afternoon, they had re-              The public prosecutor, however, pointed out a discrepancy
turned to the forest. That was the basis of each testimony;            between the first statements of the Messieurs d’Hauteserre,
any variations were merely individual circumstances. When              in which they mentioned that the whole party hunted to-
the president asked the Messieurs de Simeuse why they had              gether, and the defence now made by the Messieurs de
ridden out so early, they both declared that wishing, since            Simeuse that their purpose on that day was the valuation of
their return, to buy back Gondreville and intending to make            the forest.
an offer to Malin who had arrived the night before, they had             Monsieur de Grandville here called attention to the fact
gone out early with their cousin and Michu to make certain             that as the crime was not committed until after two o’clock
examinations of the property on which to base their offer.             in the afternoon, the prosecution had no ground to question
During that time the Messieurs d’Hauteserre, their cousin,             their word when they stated the manner in which they had
and Gothard had chased a wolf which was reported in the                employed their morning.
forest by the peasantry. If the director of the jury had sought          The prosecutor replied that the prisoners had an interest in
for the prints of their horses’ feet in the forest as carefully as     concealing their preparations for the abduction of the senator.
in the park of Gondreville, he would have found proof of                 The remarkable ability of the defence was now felt. Judges,

                                                                     154
                                                              Balzac
jurors, and audience became aware that victory would be              might easily fancy a gun was pointed at him, whereas, in
hotly contested. Bordin and Monsieur de Grandville had               point of fact, it was held in his hand at half-cock. To explain
studied their ground and foreseen everything. Innocence is           the condition of his clothes when arrested, he said he had
required to render a clear and plausible account of its actions.     slipped and fallen in the breach on his way home. “I could
The duty of the defence is to present a consistent and prob-         scarcely see my way,” he said, “and the loose stones slipped
able tale in opposition to an insufficient and improbable ac-        from under me as I climbed the bank.” As for the plaster
cusation. To counsel who regard their client as innocent, an         which Gothard was bringing him, he replied as he had done
accusation is false. The public examination of the four gentle-      in all previous examinations, that he wanted it to secure one
men sufficiently explained the matter in their favor. So far all     of the stone posts of the covered way.
was well. But the examination of Michu was more serious;                The public prosecutor and the president asked him to ex-
there the real struggle began. It was now clear to every one         plain how he could have been at the top of the covered way
why Monsieur de Grandville had preferred to take charge of           engaged in mending a stone post and at the same time in the
the servant’s defence rather than that of his masters.               breach of the moat leading to the chateau; more especially as
  Michu admitted his threats against Marion; but denied              the justice of peace, the gendarmes and the forester all de-
that he had made them violently. As for the ambush in which          clared they had heard him approach them from the lower
he was supposed to have watched for his enemy, he said he            road. To this Michu replied that Monsieur d’Hauteserre had
was merely making his rounds in his park; the senator and            blamed him for not having mended the post,—which he
Monsieur Grevin might perhaps have been alarmed at the               was anxious to have finished because there were difficulties
sight of his gun and have thought his intentions hostile when        about that road with the township,—and he had therefore
they were really inoffensive. He called attention to the fact        gone up to the chateau to report that the work was done.
that in the dusk a man who was not in the habit of hunting              Monsieur d’Hauteserre had, in fact, put up a fence above

                                                                   155
                                                     An Historical Mystery
the covered way to prevent the township from taking posses-          the jurors believed him imbecile; if he refused to answer the
sion of it. Michu seeing the important part which the state          court he ran the risk of serious penalty; whereas by telling
of his clothes was likely to play, invented this subterfuge. If,     the truth at once he would probably be released. Gothard
in law, truth is often like falsehood, falsehood on the other        wept, hesitated, and finally ended by saying that Michu had
hand has a very great resemblance to truth. The defence and          told him to carry several sacks of plaster; but that each time
the prosecution both attached much importance to this tes-           he had met him near the farm. He was asked how many
timony, which became one of the leading points of the trial          sacks he had carried.
on account of the vigor of the defence and the suspicions of           “Three,” he replied.
the prosecution.                                                       An argument hereupon ensued as to whether the three sacks
  Gothard, instructed no doubt by Monsieur de Grandville,            included the one which Gothard was carrying at the time of
for up to that time he had only wept when they questioned            the arrest (which reduced the number of the other sacks to
him, admitted that Michu had told him to carry the plaster.          two) or whether there were three without the last. The de-
  “Why did neither you nor Gothard take the justice of peace         bate ended in favor of the first proposition, the jury consid-
and the forester to the stone post and show them your work?”         ering that only two sacks had been used. They appeared to
said the public prosecutor, addressing Michu.                        have a foregone conviction on that point, but Bordin and
  “Because,” replied the man, “I didn’t believe there was any        Monsieur de Grandville judged it best to surfeit them with
serious accusation against us.”                                      plaster, and weary them so thoroughly with the argument
  All the prisoners except Gothard were now removed from             that they would no longer comprehend the question. Mon-
the courtroom. When Gothard was left alone the president             sieur de Grandville made it appear that experts ought to have
adjured him to speak the truth for his own sake, pointing            been sent to examine the stone posts.
out that his pretended idiocy had come to an end; none of              “The director of the jury,” he said, “has contented himself

                                                                   156
                                                             Balzac
with merely visiting the place, less for the purpose of making         This overwhelming argument produced a painful silence
a careful examination than to trap Michu in a lie; this, in our     in the courtroom.
opinion, was a failure of duty, but the blunder is to our ad-          “Come,” said the prosecutor, “you had better admit at once
vantage.”                                                           that what you buried was not a stone post.”
  On this the Court appointed experts to examine the posts             “Do you think it was the senator?” said Michu, sarcasti-
and see if one of them had been really mended and reset.            cally.
The public prosecutor, on his side, endeavored to make capital         Monsieur de Grandville hereupon demanded that the pub-
of the affair before the experts could testify.                     lic prosecutor should explain his meaning. Michu was ac-
  “You seem to have chosen,” he said to Michu, who was              cused of abduction and the concealment of a person, but
now brought back into the courtroom, “an hour when the              not of murder. Such an insinuation was a serious matter.
daylight was waning, from half-past five to half-past six           The code of Brumaire, year IV., forbade the public prosecu-
o’clock, to mend this post and to cement it all alone.”             tor from presenting any fresh count at the trial; he must keep
  “Monsieur d’Hauteserre had blamed me for not doing it,”           within the indictment or the proceedings would be annulled.
replied Michu.                                                         The public prosecutor replied that Michu, the person
  “But,” said the prosecutor, “if you used that plaster on the      chiefly concerned in the abduction and who, in the interests
post you must have had a trough and a trowel. Now, if you           of his masters, had taken the responsibility on his own shoul-
went to the chateau to tell Monsieur d’Hauteserre that you          ders, might have thought it necessary to plaster up the en-
had done the work, how do you explain the fact that Gothard         trance of the hiding-place, still undiscovered, where the sena-
was bringing you more plaster. You must have passed your            tor was now immured.
farm on your way to the chateau, and you would naturally               Pressed with questions, hampered by the presence of
have left your tools at home and stopped Gothard.”                  Gothard, and brought into contradiction with himself, Michu

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                                                      An Historical Mystery
struck his fist upon the edge of the dock with a resounding                               CHAPTER XVIII
blow and said: “I have had nothing whatever to do with the
abduction of the senator. I hope and believe his enemies have                        TRIAL CONTINUED:
merely imprisoned him; when he reappears you’ll find out                             CRUEL VICISSITUDES
that the plaster was put to no such use.”
  “Good!” said de Grandville, addressing the public pros-             ON THE MORROW the witnesses for the prosecution were ex-
ecutor; “you have done more for my client’s cause than any-           amined,—Madame Marion, Madame Grevin, Grevin him-
thing I could have said.”                                             self, the senator’s valet, and Violette, whose testimony can
  The first day’s session ended with this bold declaration, which     readily be imagined from the facts already told. They all iden-
surprised the judges and gave an advantage to the defence.            tified the five prisoners, with more or less hesitation as to the
The lawyers of the town and Bordin himself congratulated              four gentlemen, but with absolute certainty as to Michu.
the young advocate. The prosecutor, uneasy at the assertion,          Beauvisage repeated Robert d’Hauteserre’s speech when he
feared that he had fallen into some trap; in fact he was really       met them at daybreak in the park. The peasant who had
caught in a snare that was cleverly set for him by the defence        bought Monsieur d’Hauteserre’s calf testified to overhearing
and admirably played off by Gothard. The wits of the town             that of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. The experts, who had
declared that he had white-washed the affair and splashed his         compared the hoof-prints with the shoes on the horses rid-
own cause, and had made the accused as white as the plaster           den by the five prisoners and found them absolutely alike,
itself. France is the domain of satire, which reigns supreme in       confirmed their previous depositions. This point was natu-
our land; Frenchmen jest on a scaffold, at the Beresina, at the       rally one of vehement contention between Monsieur de
barricades, and some will doubtless appear with a quirk upon          Grandville and the prosecuting officer. The defence called
their lips at the grand assizes of the Last Judgment.                 the blacksmith at Cinq-Cygne and succeeded in proving that

                                                                    158
                                                              Balzac
he had sold several horseshoes of the same pattern to strang-        which nature had endowed him; and the public, seeing him
ers who were not known in the place. The blacksmith de-              on his mettle, recognized his superiority. And yet, strange to
clared, moreover, that he was in the habit of shoeing in this        say, the more they understood him the more certainty they
particular manner not only the horses of the chateau de Cinq-        felt that he was the instigator of the outrage.
Cygne, but those from other places in the canton. It was also          The witnesses for the defence, always less important in the
proved that the horse which Michu habitually rode was al-            eyes of a jury and of the law than the witnesses for the pros-
ways shod at Troyes, and the mark of that shoe was not among         ecution, seemed to testify as in duty bound, and were lis-
the hoof-prints found in the park.                                   tened to with that allowance. In the first place neither Marthe,
  “Michu’s double was not aware of this circumstance, or he          nor Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre took the oath.
would have provided for it,” said Monsieur de Grandville,            Catherine and the Durieus, in their capacity as servants, did
looking at the jury. “Neither has the prosecution shown what         not take it. Monsieur d’Hauteserre stated that he had or-
horses our clients rode.”                                            dered Michu to replace and mend the stone post which had
  He ridiculed the testimony of Violette so far as it con-           been thrown down. The deposition of the experts sent to
cerned a recognition of the horses, seen from a long dis-            examine the fence, which was now read, confirmed his testi-
tance, from behind, and after dusk. Still, in spite of all his       mony; but they helped the prosecution by declaring they
efforts, the body of the evidence was against Michu; and the         could not fix the exact time at which the repairs had been
prosecutor, judge, jury, and audience were impressed with a          made; it might have been several weeks or no more than
feeling (as the lawyers for the defence had foreseen) that the       twenty days.
guilt of the servant carried with it that of the masters. So the       The appearance of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne excited
vital interest centred on all that concerned Michu. His bear-        the liveliest curiosity; but the sight of her cousins in the pris-
ing was noble. He showed in his answers the sagacity with            oners’ dock after three weeks’ separation affected her so much

                                                                   159
                                                      An Historical Mystery
that her emotions gave the audience an impression of guilt.           cumstance, declared he knew nothing about it. But Bordin
She felt an overwhelming desire to stand beside the twins,            and he exchanged looks which mutually enlightened them.
and was obliged, as she afterwards admitted, to use all her             “The gist of the case is there,” thought the old notary.
strength to repress the longing that came into her mind to              “They’ve laid their finger on it,” thought the notary.
kill the prosecutor so as to stand in the eyes of the world as a        But each shrewd head considered the following up of this
criminal beside them. She testified, with simplicity, that riding     point useless. Bordin reflected that Grevin would be silent as
from Cinq-Cygne and seeing smoke in the park of                       the grave; and Grevin congratulated himself that every sign
Gondreville, she had supposed there was a fire; at first she          of the fire had been effaced.
thought they were burning weeds or brush; “but later,” she              To settle this point, which seemed a mere accessory to the
added, “I observed a circumstance which I offer to the atten-         trial and somewhat puerile (but which is really essential in
tion of the Court. I found in the frogging of my habit and in         the justification which history owes to these young men),
the folds of my collar small fragments of what appeared to            the experts and Pigoult, who were despatched by the presi-
be burned paper which were floating in the air.”                      dent to examine the park, reported that they could find no
  “Was there much smoke?” asked Bordin.                               traces of a bonfire.
  “Yes,” replied Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, “I feared a                Bordin summoned two laborers, who testified to having
conflagration.”                                                       dug over, under the direction of the forester, a tract of ground
  “This is enough to change the whole inquiry,” remarked              in the park where the grass had been burned; but they de-
Bordin. “I request the Court to order an immediate exami-             clared they had not observed the nature of the ashes they
nation of that region of the park where the fire occurred.”           had buried.
  The president ordered the inquiry.                                    The forester, recalled by the defence, said he had received
  Grevin, recalled by the defence and questioned on this cir-         from the senator himself, as he was passing the chateau of

                                                                    160
                                                             Balzac
Gondreville on his way to the masquerade at Arcis, an order         shared in the late attempts against the life of the Emperor,
to dig over that particular piece of ground which the senator       that magnanimous sovereign had erased their names from
had remarked as needing it.                                         the list of emigres. This was the return they made for his
  “Had papers, or herbage been burned there?”                       clemency! In short, all the oratorical declamations of the
  “I could not say. I saw nothing that made me think that           Bourbons against the Bonapartists, which in our day are re-
papers had been burned there,” replied the forester.                peated against the republicans and the legitimists by the
  “At any rate,” said Bordin, “if, as it appears, a fire was        Younger Branch, flourished in the speech. These trite
kindled on that piece of ground some one brought to the             commonplaces, which might have some meaning under a
spot whatever was burned there.”                                    fixed government, seem farcical in the mouth of administra-
  The testimony of the abbe and that of Mademoiselle Goujet         tors of all epochs and opinions. A saying of the troublous
made a favorable impression. They said that as they left the        times of yore is still applicable: “The label is changed, but
church after vespers and were walking towards home, they            the wine is the same as ever.” The public prosecutor, one of
met the four gentlemen and Michu leaving the chateau on             the most distinguished legal men under the Empire, attrib-
horseback and making their way to the forest. The character,        uted the crime to a fixed determination on the part of re-
position, and known uprightness of the Abbe Goujet gave             turned emigres to protest against the sale of their estates. He
weight to his words.                                                made the audience shudder at the probable condition of the
  The summing up of the public prosecutor, who felt sure of         senator; then he massed together proofs, half-proofs, and
obtaining a verdict, was in the nature of all such speeches.        probabilities with a cleverness stimulated by a sense that his
The prisoners were the incorrigible enemies of France, her          zeal was certain of its reward, and sat down tranquilly to
institutions and laws. They thirsted for tumult and conspiracy.     await the fire of his opponents.
Though they had belonged to the army of Conde and had                 Monsieur de Grandville never argued but this one crimi-

                                                                  161
                                                    An Historical Mystery
nal case; and it made his reputation. In the first place, he        have kept us twenty-three days in prison, and the senator
spoke with the same glowing eloquence which to-day we               must be dead by this time for want of food. We are therefore
admire in Berryer. He was profoundly convinced of the in-           murderers, but you have not accused us of murder. On the
nocence of his clients, and that in itself is a most powerful       other hand, if he still lives, we must have accomplices. If we
auxiliary of speech. The following are the chief points of his      have them, and if the senator is living, we should assuredly
defence, which was reported in full by all the leading news-        have set him at liberty. The scheme in relation to Gondreville
papers of the period. In the first place he exhibited the char-     which you attribute to us is a failure, and only aggravates
acter and life of Michu in its true light. He made it a noble       our position uselessly. We might perhaps obtain a pardon
tale, ringing with lofty sentiments, and it awakened the sym-       for an abortive attempt by releasing our victim; instead of
pathies of many. When Michu heard himself vindicated by             that we persist in detaining a man from whom we can ob-
that eloquent voice, tears sprang from his yellow eyes and          tain no benefit whatever. It is absurd! Take away your plas-
rolled down his terrible face. He appeared then for what he         ter; the effect is a failure,” he said, addressing the public pros-
really was,—a man as simple and as wily as a child; a being         ecutor. “We are either idiotic criminals (which you do not
whose whole existence had but one thought, one aim. He              believe) or the innocent victims of circumstances as inexpli-
was suddenly explained to the minds of all present, more            cable to us as they are to you. You ought rather to search for
especially by his tears, which produced a great effect upon         the mass of papers which were burned at Gondreville, which
the jury. His able defender seized that moment of strong            will reveal motives stronger far than yours or ours and put
interest to enter upon a discussion of the charges:—                you on the track of the causes of this abduction.”
  “Where is the body of the person abducted? Where is the             The speaker discussed these hypotheses with marvellous
senator?” he asked. “You accuse us of walling him up with           ability. He dwelt on the moral character of the witnesses for
stones and plaster. If so, we alone know where he is; you           the defence, whose religious faith was a living one, who be-

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                                                               Balzac
lieved in a future life and in eternal punishment. He rose to         and specious prosecutor, who went over the whole case,
grandeur in this part of his speech and moved his hearers             brought out the darkest points against the prisoners and made
deeply:—                                                              the rest inexplicable. His aim was to reach the minds and the
   “Remember!” he said; “these criminals were tranquilly din-         reasoning faculties of his hearers just as Monsieur de
ing when told of the abduction of the senator. When the               Grandville had aimed at the heart and the imagination. The
officer of gendarmes intimated to them the best means of              latter, however, had seriously entangled the convictions of
ending the whole affair by giving up the senator, they re-            the jury, and the public prosecutor found his well-laid argu-
fused, for they did not understand what was asked of them!”           ments ineffectual. This was so plain that the counsel for the
   Then, reverting to the mystery of the matter, he declared          Messieurs d’Hauteserre and Gothard appealed to the judg-
that its solution was in the hands of time, which would even-         ment of the jury, asking that the case against their clients be
tually reveal the injustice of the charge. Once on this ground,       abandoned. The prosecutor demanded a postponement till
he boldly and ingeniously supposed himself a juror; related           the next day in order that he might prepare an answer. Bordin,
his deliberations with his colleagues; imagined his distress          who saw acquittal in the eyes of the jury if they deliberated
lest, having condemned the innocent, the error should be              on the case at once, opposed the delay of even one night by
known too late, and drew such a picture of his remorse,               arguments of legal right and justice to his innocent clients;
dwelling on the grave doubts which the case presented, that           but in vain,—the court allowed it.
he brought the jury to a condition of intense anxiety.                   “The interests of society are as great as those of the ac-
   Juries were not in those days so blase to this sort of allocu-     cused,” said the president. “The court would be lacking in
tion as they are now; Monsieur de Grandville’s appeal had             equity if it denied a like request when made by the defence;
the power of things new, and the jurors were evidently shaken.        it ought therefore to grant that of the prosecution.”
After this passionate outburst they had to listen to the wily            “All is luck or ill-luck!” said Bordin to his clients when the

                                                                    163
                                                    An Historical Mystery
session was over. “Almost acquitted tonight you may be con-         prefect notified the director of the jury, the commissary of
demned to-morrow.”                                                  the government, and the public prosecutor, who, after a state-
  “In either case,” said the elder de Simeuse, “we can only         ment made to them by Malin, arrested Marthe, while she
admire your skill.”                                                 was still in bed at the Durieu’s house in the suburbs. Made-
  Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne’s eyes were full of tears. Af-         moiselle de Cinq-Cygne, who was only at liberty under bail,
ter the doubts and fears of the counsel for the defence, she        was also snatched from one of the few hours of slumber she
had not expected this success. Those around her congratu-           had been able to obtain at rare intervals in the course of her
lated her and predicted the acquittal of her cousins. But alas!     ceaseless anxiety, and taken to the prefecture to undergo an
the matter was destined to end in a startling and almost the-       examination. An order to keep the accused from holding any
atrical event, the most unexpected and disastrous circum-           communication with each other or with their counsel was sent
stance which ever changed the face of a criminal trial.             to the prison. At ten o’clock the crowd which assembled around
  At five in the morning of the day after Monsieur de               the courtroom were informed that the trial was postponed
Grandville’s speech, the senator was found on the high road         until one o’clock in the afternoon of the same day.
to Troyes, delivered from captivity during his sleep, unaware         This change of hour, following on the news of the senator’s
of the trial that was going on or of the excitement attaching       deliverance, Marthe’s arrest, and that of Mademoiselle de
to his name in Europe, and simply happy in being once more          Cinq-Cygne, together with the denial of the right to com-
able to breathe the fresh air. The man who was the pivot of         municate with the prisoners carried terror to the hotel de
the drama was quite as amazed at what was now told to him           Chargeboeuf. The whole town and the spectators who had
as the persons who met him on his way to Troyes were as-            come to Troyes to be present at the trial, the short-hand writ-
tounded at his reappearance. A farmer lent him a carriage           ers for the daily journals, even the populace were in a fer-
and he soon reached the house of the prefect at Troyes. The         ment which can readily be imagined. The Abbe Goujet came

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                                                               Balzac
at ten o’clock to see Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre                thus afford a proof that the bread supplied to him was baked
and the counsel for the defence, who were breakfasting—as             on that particular oven. So with the wine brought in bottles
well as they could under the circumstances. The abbe took             sealed with green wax, which would probably be found iden-
Bordin and Monsieur Grandville apart, told them what                  tical with other bottles in Michu’s cellar. These shrewd ob-
Marthe had confided to him the day before, and gave them              servations, which Malin imparted to the justice of peace,
the fragment of the letter she had received. The two lawyers          who made the first examination (taking Marthe with him),
exchanged a look, after which Bordin said to the abbe: “Not           led to the results foreseen by the senator.
a word of all this! The case is lost; but at any rate let us show        Marthe, deceived by the apparent friendliness of
a firm front.”                                                        Lechesneau and the public prosecutor, who assured her that
  Marthe was not strong enough to evade the cross-ques-               complete confession could alone save her husband’s life, ad-
tioning of the director of the jury and the public prosecutor.        mitted that the cavern where the senator had been hidden
Moreover the proof against her was too overwhelming.                  was known only to her husband and the Messieurs de Simeuse
Lechesneau had sent for the under crust of the last loaf of           and d’Hauteserre, and that she herself had taken provisions
bread she had carried to the cavern, also for the empty bottles       to the senator on three separate occasions at midnight.
and various other articles. During the senator’s long hours of           Laurence, questioned about the cavern, was forced to ac-
captivity he had formed conjectures in his own mind and               knowledge that Michu had discovered it and had shown it
had looked for indications which might put him on the track           to her at the time when the four young men evaded the po-
of his enemies. These he now communicated to the authori-             lice and were hidden in it.
ties. Michu’s farmhouse, lately built, had, he supposed, a new           As soon as these preliminary examinations were ended, the
oven; the tiles or bricks on which the bread was baked would          jury, lawyers, and audience were notified that the trial would
show their jointed lines on the bottom of the loaves, and             be resumed. At three o’clock the president opened the ses-

                                                                    165
                                                  An Historical Mystery
sion by announcing that the case would be continued under           Marthe was summoned. Her appearance caused much ex-
a new aspect. He exhibited to Michu three bottles of wine         citement among the spectators and keen anxiety to the pris-
and asked him if he recognized them as bottles from his own       oners. Monsieur de Grandville rose to protest against the
cellar, showing him at the same time the identity between         testimony of a wife against her husband. The public pros-
the green wax on two empty bottles with the green wax on a        ecutor replied that Marthe by her own confession was an
full bottle taken from his cellar that morning by the justice     accomplice in the outrage; that she had neither sworn nor
of peace in presence of his wife. Michu refused to recognize      testified, and was to be heard solely in the interests of truth.
anything as his own. But these proofs for the prosecution           “We need only submit her preliminary examination to the
were understood by the jurors, to whom the president ex-          jury,” remarked the president, who now ordered the clerk of
plained that the empty bottles were found in the place where      the court to read the said testimony aloud.
the senator was imprisoned.                                         “Do you now confirm your own statement?” said the presi-
  Each prisoner was questioned as to the cavern or cellar         dent, addressing Marthe.
beneath the ruins of the old monastery. It was proved by all        Michu looked at his wife, and Marthe, who saw her fatal
witnesses for the prosecution, and also for the defence, that     error, fainted away and fell to the floor. It may be truly said
the existence of this hiding-place discovered by Michu was        that a thunderbolt had fallen upon the prisoners and their
known only to him and his wife, and to Laurence and the           counsel.
four gentlemen. We may judge of the effect in the court-            “I never wrote to my wife from prison, and I know none
room when the public prosecutor made known the fact that          of the persons employed there,” said Michu.
this cavern, known only to the accused and to their two             Bordin passed to him the fragments of the letter Marthe
witnesses, was the place where the senator had been im-           had received. Michu gave but one glance at it. “My writing
prisoned.                                                         has been imitated,” he said.

                                                                166
                                                            Balzac
  “Denial is your last resource,” said the public prosecutor.      the observation I am about to make, it is necessary to make
  The senator was introduced into the courtroom with all           it because it is the ground of an opinion favorable to the
the ceremonies due to his position. His entrance was like a        accused—who, I hope, will not feel offended by it. Fastened
stage scene. Malin (now called Comte de Gondreville, with-         to the man’s back I would naturally have been affected by his
out regard to the feelings of the late owners of the property)     odor—yet I did not perceive that which is peculiar to Michu.
was requested by the president to look at the prisoners, and       As to the person who brought me provisions on three several
did so with great attention and for a long time. He stated         occasions, I am certain it was Marthe, the wife of Michu. I
that the clothing of his abductors was exactly like that worn      recognized her the first time she came by a ring she always
by the four gentlemen; but he declared that the trouble of         wore, which she had forgotten to remove. The Court and
his mind had been such that he could not be positive that          jury will please allow for the contradictions which appear in
the accused were really the guilty parties.                        the facts I have stated, which I myself am wholly unable to
  “More than that,” he said, “it is my conviction that these       reconcile.”
four gentlemen had nothing to do with it. The hands that              A murmur of approval followed this testimony. Bordin
blindfolded me in the forest were coarse and rough. I should       asked permission of the Court to address a few questions to
rather suppose,” he added, looking at Michu, “that my old          the witness.
enemy took charge of that duty; but I beg the gentlemen of            “Does the senator think that his abduction was due to other
the jury not to give too much weight to this remark. My            causes than the interests respecting property which the pros-
suspicions are very slight, and I feel no certainty whatever—      ecution attributes to the prisoners?”
for this reason. The two men who seized me put me on horse-           “I do,” replied the senator, “but I am wholly ignorant of
back behind the man who blindfolded me, and whose hair             what the real motives were; for during a captivity of twenty
was red like Michu’s. However singular you may consider            days I saw and heard no one.”

                                                                 167
                                                    An Historical Mystery
  “Do you think,” said the public prosecutor, “that your cha-       agony. From time to time the Marquis de Chargeboeuf held
teau at Gondreville contains information, title-deeds, or other     her by the arm, fearing she might dart forward to the rescue.
papers of value which would induce a search on the part of          The Comte de Gondreville retired from the courtroom and
the Messieurs de Simeuse?”                                          as he did so he bowed to the four gentlemen, who did not
  “I do not think so,” replied Malin; “I believe those gentle-      return the salutation. This trifling matter made the jury in-
men to be incapable of attempting to get possession of such         dignant.
papers by violence. They had only to ask me for them to               “They are lost now,” whispered Bordin to the Marquis de
obtain them.”                                                       Chargeboeuf.
  “You burned certain papers in the park, did you not?” said          “Alas, yes! and always through the nobility of their senti-
Monsieur de Gondreville, abruptly.                                  ments,” replied the marquis.
  Malin looked at Grevin. After exchanging a rapid glance             “My task is now only too easy, gentlemen,” said the pros-
with the notary, which Bordin intercepted, he replied that          ecutor, rising to address the jury.
he had not burned any papers. The public prosecutor hav-              He explained the use of the cement by the necessity of
ing asked him to describe the ambush to which he had so             securing an iron frame on which to fasten a padlock which
nearly fallen a victim two years earlier, the senator replied       held the iron bar with which the gate of the cavern was closed;
that he had seen Michu watching him from the fork of a              a description of which was given in the proces-verbal made
tree. This answer, which agreed with Grevin’s testimony, pro-       that morning by Pigoult. He put the falsehoods of the ac-
duced a great impression.                                           cused into the strongest light, and pulverized the arguments
  The four gentlemen remained impassible during the ex-             of the defence with the new evidence so miraculously ob-
amination of their enemy, who seemed determined to over-            tained. In 1806 France was still too near the Supreme Being
whelm them with generosity. Laurence suffered horrible              of 1793 to talk about divine justice; he therefore spared the

                                                                  168
                                                             Balzac
jury all reference to the intervention of heaven; but he said       would not have released him until after their acquittal. He
that earthly justice would be on the watch for the mysteri-         endeavored to bring before the minds of the Court and jury
ous accomplices who had set the senator at liberty, and he          the fact that mysterious enemies, undiscovered as yet, could
sat down, confidently awaiting the verdict.                         alone have struck the accused this final blow.
   The jury believed there was a mystery, but they were all           Strange to say, the only minds Monsieur de Grandville
persuaded that it came from the prisoners, who were prob-           reached with this argument were those of the public pros-
ably concealing some matter of a private interest of great          ecutor and the judges. The jury listened perfunctorily; the
importance to them.                                                 audience, usually so favorable to prisoners, were convinced
   Monsieur de Grandville, to whom a plot or machination            of their guilt. In a court of justice the sentiments of the crowd
of some kind was quite evident, rose; but he seemed discour-        do unquestionably weigh upon the judges and the jury, and
aged,—less, however, by the new evidence than by the mani-          vice versa. Seeing this condition of the minds about him,
fest opinion of the jury. He surpassed, if anything, his speech     which could be felt if not defined, the counsel uttered his
of the previous evening; his argument was more compact              last words in a tone of passionate excitement caused by his
and logical; but he felt his fervor repelled by the coldness of     conviction:—
the jury; he spoke ineffectually, and he knew it,—a chilling          “In the name of the accused,” he cried, “I forgive you for
situation for an advocate. He called attention to the fact that     the fatal error you are about to commit, and which nothing
the release of the senator, as if by magic and clearly without      can repair! We are the victims of some mysterious and Ma-
the aid of any of the accused or of Marthe, corroborated his        chiavellian power. Marthe Michu was inveigled by vile per-
previous argument. Yesterday the prisoners could most surely        fidy. You will discover this too late, when the evil you now
rely on acquittal, and if they had, as the prosecution claimed,     do will be irreparable.”
the power to hold or to release the senator, they certainly           Bordin simply claimed the acquittal of the prisoners on

                                                                  169
                                                    An Historical Mystery
the testimony of the senator himself.                                 “Our counsel has forgiven you,” said the eldest de Simeuse
  The president summed up the case with all the more im-            to the Court.
partiality because it was evident that the minds of the jurors
were already made up. He even turned the scales in favor of                                    *    *    *
the prisoners by dwelling on the senator’s evidence. This clem-
ency, however, did not in the least endanger the success of         Madame d’Hauteserre fell ill, and was three months in her
the prosecution. At eleven o’clock that night, after the jury       bed at the hotel de Chargeboeuf. Monsieur d’Hauteserre re-
had replied through their foreman to the usual questions,           turned patiently to Cinq-Cygne, inwardly gnawed by one of
the Court condemned Michu to death, the Messieurs de                those sorrows of old age which have none of youth’s distrac-
Simeuse to twenty-four years’ and the Messieurs d’Hauteserre        tions; often he was so absent-minded that the abbe, who
to ten years, penal servitude at hard labor. Gothard was ac-        watched him, knew the poor father was living over again the
quitted.                                                            scene of the fatal verdict. Marthe passed away from all blame;
  The whole audience was eager to observe the bearing of            she died three weeks after the condemnation of her husband,
the five guilty men in this supreme moment of their lives.          confiding her son to Laurence, in whose arms she died.
The four gentlemen looked at Laurence, who returned them,             The trial once over, political events of the utmost impor-
with dry eyes, the ardent look of the martyrs.                      tance effaced even the memory of it, and nothing further
  “She would have wept had we been acquitted,” said the             was discovered. Society is like the ocean; it returns to its level
younger de Simeuse to his brother.                                  and its specious calmness after a disaster, effacing all traces
  Never did convicted men meet an unjust fate with serener          of it in the tide of its eager interests.
brows or countenances more worthy of their manhood than               Without her natural firmness of mind and her knowledge
these five victims of a cruel plot.                                 of her cousins’ innocence, Laurence would have succumbed;

                                                                  170
                                                            Balzac
but she gave fresh proof of the grandeur of her character; she                           CHAPTER XIX
astonished Monsieur de Grandville and Bordin by the ap-
parent serenity which these terrible misfortunes called forth                  THE EMPEROR’S BIVOUAC
in her noble soul. She nursed Madame d’Hauteserre and went
daily to the prison, saying openly that she would marry one        TOWARDS THE END of September, after three sessions of the
of the cousins when they were taken to the galleys.                Court of Appeals in which the lawyers for the defence
  “To the galleys!” cried Bordin, “Mademoiselle! our first         pleaded, and the attorney-general Merlin himself spoke for
endeavor must be to wring their pardon from the Emperor.”          the prosecution, the appeal was rejected. The Imperial Court
  “Their pardon!—from a Bonaparte?” cried Laurence in              of Paris was by this time instituted. Monsieur de Grandville
horror.                                                            was appointed assistant attorney-general, and the department
  The spectacles of the old lawyer jumped from his nose; he        of the Aube coming under the jurisdiction of this court, it
caught them as they fell and looked at the young girl who          became possible for him to take certain steps in favor of the
was now indeed a woman; he understood her character at             convicted prisoners, among them that of importuning
last in all its bearings; then he took the arm of the Marquis      Cambaceres, his protector. Bordin and Monsieur de
de Chargeboeuf, saying:—                                           Chargeboeuf came to his house in the Marais the day after
  “Monsieur le Marquis, let us go to Paris instantly and save      the appeal was rejected, where they found him in the midst
them without her!”                                                 of his honeymoon, for he had married in the interval. In
  The appeal of the Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre          spite of all these changes in his condition, Monsieur de
and that of Michu was the first case to be brought before the      Chargeboeuf saw very plainly that the young lawyer was faith-
new court. Its decision was fortunately delayed by the cer-        ful to his late clients. Certain lawyers, the artists of their pro-
emonies attending its installation.                                fession, treat their causes like mistresses. This is rare, how-

                                                                 171
                                                  An Historical Mystery
ever, and must not be depended on.                                chief justice certain information which added weight to these
  As soon as they were alone in his study, Monsieur de            sad words of Monsieur de Grandville.
Grandville said to the marquis: “I have not waited for your         “Michu is innocent, I know,” continued the young lawyer,
visit; I have already employed all my influence. Don’t at-        “but what can we do against so many? Remember, too, that
tempt to save Michu; if you do, you cannot obtain the par-        my present influence depends on my keeping silent. I must
don of the Messieurs de Simeuse. The law will insist on one       order the scaffold to be prepared, or my late client is certain
victim.”                                                          to be beheaded.”
  “Good God!” cried Bordin, showing the young magistrate            Monsieur de Chargeboeuf knew Laurence well enough to
the three petitions for mercy; “how can I take upon myself        be certain she would never consent to save her cousins at the
to withdraw the application for that man. If I suppress the       expense of Michu; he therefore resolved on making one more
paper I cut off his head.”                                        effort. He asked an audience of the minister of foreign af-
  He held out the petition; de Grandville took it, looked it      fairs to learn if salvation could be looked for through the
over, and said:—                                                  influence of the great diplomat. He took Bordin with him,
  “We can’t suppress it; but be sure of one thing, if you ask     for the latter knew the minister and had done him some
all you will obtain nothing.”                                     service. The two old men found Talleyrand sitting with his
  “Have we time to consult Michu?” asked Bordin.                  feet stretched out, absorbed in contemplation of his fire, his
  “Yes. The order for execution comes from the office of the      head resting on his hand, his elbow on the table, a newspa-
attorney-general; I will see that you have some days. We kill     per lying at his feet. The minister had just read the decision
men,” he said with some bitterness, “but at least we do it        of the Court of Appeals.
formally, especially in Paris.”                                     “Pray sit down, Monsieur le marquis,” said Talleyrand, “and
  Monsieur de Chargeboeuf had already received from the           you, Bordin,” he added, pointing to a place at the table, “write

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as follows:—”                                                       He took a pen and himself wrote a private and confiden-
                                                                 tial letter to the Emperor, and another of ten lines to Marechal
Sire,—Four innocent gentlemen, declared guilty by a jury         Duroc. Then he rang the bell, asked his secretary for a diplo-
have just had their condemnation confirmed by your Court         matic passport, and said tranquilly to the old lawyer, “What
of Appeals.                                                      is your honest opinion of that trial?”
 Your Imperial Majesty can now only pardon them. These              “Do you know, monseigneur, who was at the bottom of
gentlemen ask this pardon of your august clemency, in the        this cruel wrong?”
hope that they may enter your army and meet their death             “I presume I do; but I have reasons to wish for certainty,”
in battle before your eyes; and thus praying, they are, of       replied Talleyrand. “Return to Troyes; bring me the Comtesse
your Imperial and Royal Majesty, with reverence, etc.            de Cinq-Cygne, here, to-morrow at the same hour, but se-
                                                                 cretly; ask to be ushered into Madame de Talleyrand’s salon;
  “None but princes can do such prompt and graceful kind-        I will tell her you are coming. If Mademoiselle de Cinq-
ness,” said the Marquis de Chargeboeuf, taking the precious      Cygne, who shall be placed where she can see a man who
draft of the petition from the hands of Bordin that he might     will be standing before me, recognizes that man as an indi-
have it signed by the four gentlemen; resolving in his own       vidual who came to her house during the conspiracy of de
mind that he would also obtain the signatures of several au-     Polignac and Riviere, tell her to remember that, no matter
gust names.                                                      what I say or what he answers me, she must not utter a word
  “The life of your young relatives, Monsieur le marquis,”       nor make a gesture. One thing more, think only of saving
said the minister, “now depends on the turn of a battle. En-     the de Simeuse brothers; don’t embarrass yourself with that
deavor to reach the Emperor on the morning after a victory       scoundrel of a bailiff—”
and they are saved.”                                                “A sublime man, monseigneur!” exclaimed Bordin.

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                                                     An Historical Mystery
  “Enthusiasm! in you, Bordin! The man must be remark-                 The next day, when Talleyrand was informed by a sign
able. Our sovereign has an immense self-love, Monsieur le            agreed upon that Laurence was at her post, he rang the bell;
marquis,” he said, changing the conversation. “He is about           his orderly came to him, and received orders to admit Mon-
to dismiss me that he may commit follies without warning.            sieur Corentin.
The Emperor is a great soldier who can change the laws of              “My friend, you are a very clever fellow,” said Talleyrand,
time and distance, but he cannot change men; yet he persists         “and I wish to employ you.”
in trying to run them in his own mould! Now, remember                  “Monsiegneur—”
this; the young men’s pardon can be obtained by one person             “Listen. In serving Fouche you will get money, but never
only—Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.”                                    honor nor any position you can acknowledge. But in serving
   The marquis went alone to Troyes and told the whole matter        me, as you have lately done at Berlin, you can win credit and
to Laurence. She obtained permission from the authorities            repute.”
to see Michu, and the marquis accompanied her to the gates             “Monseigneur is very good.”
of the prison, where he waited for her. When she came out              “You displayed genius in that late affair at Gondreville.”
her face was bathed in tears.                                          “To what does Monseigneur allude?” said Corentin, with
   “Poor man!” she said; “he tried to kneel to me, praying           a manner that was neither too reserved nor too surprised.
that I would not think of him, and forgetting the shackles             “Ah, Monsieur!” observed the minister, dryly, “you will
that were on his feet! Ah, marquis, I will plead his cause. Yes,     never make a successful man; you fear—”
I’ll kiss the boot of their Emperor. If I fail—well, the memory        “What, monseigneur?”
of that man shall live eternally honored in our family. Present        “Death!” replied Talleyrand, in his fine, deep voice. “Adieu,
his petition for mercy so as to gain time; meantime I am             my good friend.”
resolved to have his portrait. Come, let us go.”                       “That is the man,” said the Marquis de Chargeboeuf en-

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                                                               Balzac
tering the room after Corentin was dismissed; “but we have            eral of police refused to countersign the passport of the trav-
nearly killed the countess.”                                          ellers, and gave them positive orders to return. By that time
  “He is the only man I know capable of playing such a trick,”        the marquis and Laurence were leaving France by way of
replied the minister. “Monsieur le marquis, you are in dan-           Besancon with the diplomatic passport.
ger of not succeeding in your mission. Start ostensibly for             Laurence crossed Switzerland in the first days of October,
Strasburg; I’ll send you double passports in blank to be filled       without paying the slightest attention to that glorious land.
out. Provide yourself with substitutes; change your route and         She lay back in the carriage in the torpor which overtakes a
above all your carriage; let your substitutes go on to Strasburg,     criminal on the eve of his execution. To her eyes all nature
and do you reach Prussia through Switzerland and Bavaria.             was shrouded in a seething vapor; even common things as-
Not a word—prudence! The police are against you; and you              sumed fantastic shapes. The one thought, “If I do not suc-
do not know what the police are—”                                     ceed they will kill themselves,” fell upon her soul with reiter-
  Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne offered the then celebrated              ated blows, as the bar of the executioner fell upon the victim’s
Robert Lefebvre a sufficient sum to induce him to go to Troyes        members when tortured on the wheel. She felt herself break-
and take Michu’s portrait. Monsieur de Grandville prom-               ing; she lost her energy in this terrible waiting for the cruel
ised to afford the painter every possible facility. Monsieur de       moment, short and decisive, when she should find herself
Chargeboeuf then started in the old berlingot, with Laurence          face to face with that man on whom the fate of the con-
and a servant who spoke German. Not far from Nancy they               demned depended. She chose to yield to her depression rather
overtook Mademoiselle Goujet and Gothard, who had pre-                than waste her strength uselessly. The marquis, who was in-
ceded them in an excellent carriage, which the marquis took,          capable of understanding this resolve of firm minds, which
giving them in exchange the berlingot.                                often assumes quite diverse aspects (for in such moments of
  Talleyrand was right. At Strasburg the commissary-gen-              tension certain superior minds give way to surprising gai-

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                                                   An Historical Mystery
ety), began to fear that he might never bring Laurence alive       Napoleon, who was marching with the rapidity of lightning.
to the momentous interview, solemn to them only, and yet             At last, on the 13th of October (date of ill-omen) Made-
beyond the ordinary limits of private life. To Laurence, the       moiselle de Cinq-Cygne was skirting a river in the midst of
necessity of humiliating herself before that man, the object       the Grand Army, seeing nought but confusion, sent hither
of her hatred and contempt, meant the sacrifice of all her         and thither from one village to another, from division to
noblest feelings.                                                  division, frightened at finding herself alone with one old man
  “After this,” she said, “the Laurence who survives will bear     tossed about in an ocean of a hundred and fifty thousand
no likeness to her who is now to perish.”                          armed men facing a hundred and fifty thousand more. Weary
  The travellers could not fail to be aware of the vast move-      of watching the river through the hedges of the muddy road
ment of men and material which surrounded them the mo-             which she was following along a hillside, she asked its name
ment they entered Prussia. The campaign of Jena had just           of a passing soldier.
begun. Laurence and the marquis beheld the magnificent               “That’s the Saale,” he said, showing her the Prussian army,
divisions of the French army deploying and parading as if at       grouped in great masses on the other side of the stream.
the Tuileries. In this display of military power, which can be       Night came on. Laurence beheld the camp-fires lighted
adequately described only with the words and images of the         and the glitter of stacked arms. The old marquis, whose cour-
Bible, the proportions of the Man whose spirit moved these         age was chivalric, drove the horses himself (two strong beasts
masses grew gigantic to Laurence’s imagination. Soon, the          bought the evening before), his servant sitting beside him.
cry of victory resounded in her ears. The Imperial arms had        He knew very well he should find neither horses nor postilions
just obtained two signal advantages. The Prince of Prussia         within the lines of the army. Suddenly the bold equipage, an
had been killed the evening before the day on which the            object of great astonishment to the soldiers, was stopped by
travellers arrived at Saalfeld on their endeavor to overtake       a gendarme of the military gendarmerie, who galloped up to

                                                                 176
                                                           Balzac
the carriage, calling out to the marquis: “Who are you? where       “Speak to the Emperor!” exclaimed the first officer; “how
are you going? what do you want?”                                 can you think of such a thing—on the eve of a decisive battle?”
  “The Emperor,” replied the Marquis de Chargeboeuf; “I             “True,” she said; “I ought to speak to him on the mor-
have an important dispatch for the Grand-marechal Duroc.”         row—victory would make him kind.”
  “Well, you can’t stay here,” said the gendarme.                   The two officers stationed themselves at a little distance
  Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne and the marquis were, how-           and sat motionless on their horses. The carriage was now
ever, compelled to remain where they were on account of           surrounded by a mass of generals, marshals, and other offic-
the darkness.                                                     ers, all extremely brilliant in appearance, who appeared to
  “Where are we?” she asked, stopping two officers whom           pay deference to the carriage merely because it was there.
she saw passing, whose uniforms were concealed by cloth             “Good God!” said the marquis to Mademoiselle de Cinq-
overcoats.                                                        Cygne; “I am afraid you spoke to the Emperor.”
  “You are among the advanced guard of the French army,”            “The Emperor?” said a colonel, beside them, “why there
answered one of the officers. “You cannot stay here, for if       he is!” pointing to the officer who had said, “How did that
the enemy makes a movement and the artillery opens you            woman get here?” He was mounted on a white horse, richly
will be between two fires.”                                       caparisoned, and wore the celebrated gray top-coat over his
  “Ah!” she said, with an indifferent air.                        green uniform. He was scanning with a field-glass the Prus-
  Hearing that “Ah!” the other officer turned and said: “How      sian army massed beyond the Saale. Laurence understood
did that woman come here?”                                        then why the carriage remained there, and why the Emperor’s
  “We are waiting,” said Laurence, “for a gendarme who has        escort respected it. She was seized with a convulsive tremor—
gone to find General Duroc, a protector who will enable us        the hour had come! She heard the heavy sound of the tramp
to speak to the Emperor.”                                         of men and the clang of their arms as they arrived at a quick

                                                                177
                                                   An Historical Mystery
step on the plateau. The batteries had a language, the cais-       the gendarme, “accompany this carriage, and take it close to
sons thundered, the brass glittered.                               that hut at the rear.”
  “Marechal Lannes will take position with his whole corps           Monsieur de Chargeboeuf followed the gendarme and
in the advance; Marechal Lefebvre and the Guard will oc-           stopped his horses behind a miserable cabin, built of mud
cupy this hill,” said the other officer, who was Major-general     and branches, surrounded by a few fruit-trees, and guarded
Berthier.                                                          by pickets of infantry and cavalry.
  The Emperor dismounted. At his first motion Roustan,               It may be said that the majesty of war appeared here in all its
his famous mameluke, hastened to hold his horse. Laurence          grandeur. From this height the lines of the two armies were
was stupefied with amazement; she had never dreamed of             visible in the moonlight. After an hour’s waiting, the time be-
such simplicity.                                                   ing occupied by the incessant coming and going of the aides-
  “I shall pass the night on the plateau,” said the Emperor.       de-camp, Duroc himself came for Mademoiselle de Cinq-
  Just then the Grand-marechal Duroc, whom the gendarme            Cygne and the marquis, and made them enter the hut, the
had finally found, came up to the Marquis de Chargeboeuf           floor of which was of battened earth like that of a stable.
and asked the reason of his coming. The marquis replied              Before a table with the remains of dinner, and before a fire
that a letter from the Prince de Talleyrand, of which he was       made of green wood which smoked, Napoleon was seated in
the bearer, would explain to the marshal how urgent it was         a clumsy chair. His muddy boots gave evidence of a long
that Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne and himself should ob-             tramp across country. He had taken off the famous top-coat;
tain an audience of the Emperor.                                   and his equally famous green uniform, crossed by the red
  “His Majesty will no doubt dine at his bivouac,” said Duroc,     cordon of the Legion of honor and heightened by the white
taking the letter, “and when I find out what your object is, I     of his kerseymere breeches and of his waistcoat, brought out
will let you know if you can see him. Corporal,” he said to        vividly his pale and terrible Caesarian face. One hand was

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                                                            Balzac
on a map which lay unfolded on his knees. Berthier stood           of destiny had said the words that foretold to her ears suc-
near him in the brilliant uniform of the vice-constable of the     cess.
Empire. Constant, the valet, was offering the Emperor his            “Are they innocent?” asked the Emperor.
coffee from a tray.                                                  “Yes, all of them,” she said with enthusiasm.
  “What do you want?” said Napoleon, with a show of rough-           “All? No, that bailiff is a dangerous man, who would have
ness, darting his eye like a flash through Laurence’s head.        killed my senator without taking your advice.”
“You are no longer afraid to speak to me before the battle?          “Ah, Sire,” she said, “if you had a friend devoted to you,
What is it about?”                                                 would you abandon him? Would you not rather—”
  “Sire,” she said, looking at him with as firm an eye, “I am        “You are a woman,” he said, interrupting her in a faint
Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.”                                       tone of ridicule.
  “Well?” he replied, in an angry voice, thinking her look           “And you, a man of iron!” she replied with a passionate
braved him.                                                        sternness which pleased him.
  “Do you not understand? I am the Comtesse de Cinq-                 “That man has been condemned to death by the laws of
Cygne, come to ask mercy,” she said, falling on her knees          his country,” he continued.
and holding out to him the petition drawn up by Talleyrand,          “But he is innocent!”
endorsed by the Empress, by Cambaceres and by Malin.                 “Child!” he said.
  The Emperor raised her graciously, and said with a keen            He took Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne by the hand and
look: “Have you come to your senses? Do you now under-             led her from the hut to the plateau.
stand what the French Empire is and must be?”                        “See,” he continued, with that eloquence of his which
  “Ah! at this moment I understand only the Emperor,” she          changed even cowards to brave men, “see those three hun-
said, vanquished by the kindly manner with which the man           dred thousand men—all innocent. And yet to-morrow thirty

                                                                 179
                                                    An Historical Mystery
thousand of them will be lying dead, dead for their country!          The marquis bowed without replying. Happily at this mo-
Among those Prussians there is, perhaps, some great math-           ment General Rapp rushed into the hut.
ematician, a man of genius, an idealist, who will be mown             “Sire, the cavalry of the Guard, and that of the Grand-duc
down. On our side we shall assuredly lose many a great man          de Berg cannot be set up before midday to-morrow.”
never known to fame. Perhaps even I shall see my best friend          “Never mind,” said Napoleon, turning to Berthier, “we,
die. Shall I blame God? No. I shall bear it silently. Learn         too, get our reprieves; let us profit by them.”
from this, mademoiselle, that a man must die for the laws of          At a sign of his hand the marquis and Laurence retired and
his country just as men die here for her glory.” So saying, he      again entered their carriage; the corporal showed them their
led her back into the hut. “Return to France,” he said, look-       road and accompanied them to a village where they passed
ing at the marquis; “my orders shall follow you.”                   the night. The next day they left the field of battle behind
  Laurence believed in a commutation of Michu’s punish-             them, followed by the thunder of the cannon,—eight hun-
ment, and in her gratitude she knelt again before the Em-           dred pieces,—which pursued them for ten hours. While still
peror and kissed his hand.                                          on their way they learned of the amazing victory of Jena.
  “You are the Marquis de Chargeboeuf?” said Napoleon,                 Eight days later, they were driving through the faubourg
addressing the marquis.                                             of Troyes, where they learned that an order of the chief jus-
  “Yes, Sire.”                                                      tice, transmitted through the procureur imperial of Troyes,
  “You have children?”                                              commanded the release of the four gentlemen on bail dur-
  “Many children.”                                                  ing the Emperor’s pleasure. But Michu’s sentence was con-
  “Why not give me one of your grandsons? he shall be my page.”     firmed, and the warrant for his execution had been forwarded
  “Ah!” thought Laurence, “there’s the sub-lieutenant after         from the ministry of police. These orders had reached Troyes
all; he wants to be paid for his mercy.”                            that very morning. Laurence went at once to the prison,

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                                                             Balzac
though it was two in the morning, and obtained permission           head on the plank he said to the executioner, after asking
to stay with Michu, who was about to undergo the melan-             him to turn down the collar of his coat, “My clothes belong
choly ceremony called “the toilet.” The good abbe, who had          to you; try not to spot them.”
asked permission to accompany him to the scaffold, had just
given absolution to the man, whose only distress in dying                                     *   *    *
was his uncertainty as to the fate of his young masters. When
Laurence entered his cell he uttered a cry of joy.                  The four gentlemen had hardly time to even see Mademoi-
  “I can die now,” he said.                                         selle de Cinq-Cygne. An orderly of the general commanding
  “They are pardoned,” she said; “I do not know on what             the division to which they were assigned, brought them their
conditions, but they are pardoned. I did all I could for you,       commissions as sub-lieutenants in the same regiment of cav-
dear friend—against the advice of others. I thought I had saved     alry, with orders to proceed at once to Bayonne, the base of
you; but the Emperor deceived me with his graciousness.”            supplies for its particular army-corps. After a scene of heart-
  “It was written above,” said Michu, “that the watch-dog           rending farewells, for they all foreboded what the future
should be killed on the spot where his old masters died.”           should bring forth, Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne returned
  The last hour passed rapidly. Michu, at the moment of             to her desolate home.
parting, asked to kiss her hand, but Laurence held her cheek          The two brothers were killed together under the eyes of
to the lips of the noble victim that he might sacredly kiss it.     the Emperor at Sommo-Sierra, the one defending the other,
Michu refused to mount the cart.                                    both being already in command of their troop. The last words
  “Innocent men should go afoot,” he said.                          of each were, “Laurence, cy meurs!”
  He would not let the abbe give him his arm; resolutely and          The elder d’Hauteserre died a colonel at the attack on the
with dignity he walked alone to the scaffold. As he laid his        redoubt at Moscow, where his brother took his place.

                                                                  181
                                                  An Historical Mystery
  Adrien d’Hauteserre, appointed brigadier-general at the         him an income of twelve thousand francs a year. Later, she
battle of Dresden, was dangerously wounded there and was          arranged a marriage for him with Mademoiselle Girel, an
sent to Cinq-Cygne for proper nursing. While endeavoring          heiress at Troyes.
to save this relic of the four gentlemen who for a few brief        The Marquis de Cinq-Cygne died in 1829, in the arms of
months had been so happy around her, Laurence, then thirty-       his wife, surrounded by his father and mother, and his chil-
two years of age, married him. She offered him a withered         dren who adored him. At the time of his death no one had
heart, but he accepted it; those who truly love doubt noth-       ever fathomed the mystery of the senator’s abduction. Louis
ing or doubt all.                                                 XVIII. did not neglect to repair, as far as possible, the wrongs
  The Restoration found Laurence without enthusiasm. The          done by that affair; but he was silent as to the causes of the
Bourbons returned too late for her. Nevertheless, she had no      disaster. From that time forth the Marquise de Cinq-Cygne
cause for complaint. Her husband, made peer of France with        believed him to have been an accomplice in the catastrophe.
the title of Marquis de Cinq-Cygne, became lieutenant-gen-
eral in 1816, and was rewarded with the blue ribbon for the
eminent services which he then performed.
  Michu’s son, of whom Laurence took care as though he
were her own child, was admitted to the bar in 1817. After
practising two years he was made assistant-judge at the court
of Alencon, and from there he became procureur-du-roi at
Arcis in 1827. Laurence, who had also taken charge of Michu’s
property, made over to the young man on the day of his
majority an investment in the public Funds which yielded

                                                                182
                                                           Balzac
                    CHAPTER XX                                    in his last years as true a love as that he gave to her, was
                                                                  completely happy in his married life. Laurence lived for the
             THE MYSTERY SOLVED                                   joys of home. No woman has ever been more cherished by
                                                                  her friends or more respected. To be received in her house is
THE LATE MARQUIS DE CINQ-CYGNE had used his savings, as           an honor. Gentle, indulgent, intellectual, above all things
well as those of his father and mother, in the purchase of a      simple and natural, she pleases choice souls and draws them
fine house in the rue de Faubourg-du-Roule, entailing it on       to her in spite of her saddened aspect; each longs to protect
heirs male for the support of the title. The sordid economy       this woman, inwardly so strong, and that sentiment of secret
of the marquis and his parents, which had often troubled          protection counts for much in the wondrous charm of her
Laurence, was then explained. After this purchase the mar-        friendship. Her life, so painful during her youth, is beautiful
quise, who lived at Cinq-Cygne and economized on her own          and serene towards evening. Her sufferings are known, and
account for her children, spent her winters in Paris,—all the     no one asks who was the original of that portrait by Lefebvre
more willingly because her daughter Berthe and her son Paul       which is the chief and sacred ornament of her salon. Her
were now of an age when their education required the re-          face has the maturity of fruits that have ripened slowly; a
sources of Paris.                                                 hallowed pride dignifies that long-tried brow.
  Madame de Cinq-Cygne went but little into society. Her            At the period when the marquise came to Paris to open the
husband could not be ignorant of the regrets which lay in         new house, her fortune, increased by the law of indemnities,
her tender heart; but he showed her always the most exquis-       gave her some two hundred thousand francs a year, not count-
ite delicacy, and died having loved no other woman. This          ing her husband’s salary; besides this, Laurence had inher-
noble soul, not fully understood for a period of time but to      ited the money guarded by Michu for his young masters.
which the generous daughter of the Cinq-Cygnes returned           From that time forth she made a practice of spending half

                                                                183
                                                    An Historical Mystery
her income and of laying by the rest for her daughter Berthe.       court the noble provincial house? and was the daughter of
  Berthe is the living image of her mother, but without her         the Cinq-Cygnes frightened by the celebrity of Madame de
warrior nerve; she is her mother in delicacy, in intellect,—        Cadignan, her tastes and her ruinous extravagance? In her
”more a woman,” Laurence says, sadly. The marquise was              strong desire not to injure her son’s prospects the princess
not willing to marry her daughter until she was twenty years        grew devout, shut the door on her former life, and spent the
of age. Her savings, judiciously invested in the Funds by old       summer season at Geneva in a villa on the lake.
Monsieur d’Hauteserre at the moment when consols fell in              One evening there were present in the salon of the Princesse
1830, gave Berthe a dowry of eighty thousand francs a year          de Cadignan, the Marquise d’Espard, and de Marsay, then
in 1833, when she was twenty.                                       president of the Council (on this occasion the princess saw
  About that time the Princesse de Cadignan, who was seek-          her former lover for the last time, for he died the following
ing to marry her son, the Duc de Maufrigneuse, brought              year), Eugene de Rastignac, under-secretary of State attached
him into intimate relations with Madame de Cinq-Cygne.              to de Marsay’s ministry, two ambassadors, two celebrated
Georges de Maufrigneuse dined with the marquise three times         orators from the Chamber of Peers, the old dukes of
a week, accompanied the mother and daughter to the Op-              Lenoncourt and de Navarreins, the Comte de Vandenesse
era, and curvetted in the Bois around their carriage when           and his young wife, and d’Arthez,—who formed a rather
they drove out. It was evident to all the world of the Faubourg     singular circle, the composition of which can be thus ex-
Saint-Germain that Georges loved Berthe. But no one could           plained. The princess was anxious to obtain from the prime
discover to a certainty whether Madame de Cinq-Cygne was            minister of the crown a permit for the return of the Prince
desirous of making her daughter a duchess, to become a prin-        de Cadignan. De Marsay, who did not choose to take upon
cess later, or whether it was only the princess who coveted         himself the responsibility of granting it came to tell the prin-
for her son the splendid dowry. Did the celebrated Diane            cess the matter had been entrusted to safe hands, and that a

                                                                  184
                                                            Balzac
certain political manager had promised to bring her the re-        tell me your agent’s name?”
sult in the course of that evening.                                  The former clerk of Arcis, former Conventional, former
   Madame and Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne were an-                  Thermidorien, tribune, Councillor of State, count of the
nounced. Laurence, whose principles were unyielding, was           Empire and senator, peer of the Restoration, and now peer
not only surprised but shocked to see the most illustrious         of the monarchy of July, made a servile bow to the princess.
representatives of Legitimacy talking and laughing in a              “Fear nothing, madame,” he said; “we have ceased to make
friendly manner with the prime minister of the man whom            war on princes. I bring you an assurance of the permit,” he
she never called anything but Monsieur le Duc d’Orleans.           added, seating himself beside her.
De Marsay, like an expiring lamp, shone with a last bril-            Malin was long in the confidence of Louis XVIII., to whom
liancy. He laid aside for the moment his political anxieties,      his varied experience was useful. He had greatly aided in
and Madame de Cinq-Cygne endured him, as they say the              overthrowing Decazes, and had given much good advice to
Court of Austria endured de Saint-Aulaire; the man of the          the ministry of Villele. Coldly received by Charles X., he
world effaced the minister of the citizen-king. But she rose       had adopted all the rancors of Talleyrand. He was now in
to her feet as though her chair were of red-hot iron when the      high favor under the twelfth government he had served since
name was announced of “Monsieur le Comte de                        1789, and which in turn he would doubtless betray. For the
Gondreville.”                                                      last fifteen months he had broken the long friendship which
   “Adieu, madame,” she said to the princess in a curt tone.       had bound him for thirty-six years to our greatest diplomat,
   She left the room with Berthe, measuring her steps to avoid     the Prince de Talleyrand. It was in the course of this very
encountering that fatal being.                                     evening that he made answer to some one who asked why
   “You may have caused the loss of Georges’ marriage,” said       the Prince showed such hostility to the Duc de Bordeaux,
the princess to de Marsay, in a low voice. “Why did you not        “The Pretender is too young!”

                                                                 185
                                                    An Historical Mystery
  “Singular advice to give young men,” remarked Rastignac.          speak of took place; it is as old to the present day as the death
  De Marsay, who grew thoughtful after Madame de                    of Henri IV. (which between ourselves and in spite of the prov-
Cadignan’s reproachful speech, took no notice of these jests.       erb is still a mystery, like so many other historical catastro-
He looked askance at Gondreville and was evidently biding           phes). I can, however, assure you that even if this affair did not
his time until that now old man, who went to bed early, had         concern Madame de Cinq-Cygne it would be none the less
taken leave. All present, who had witnessed the abrupt de-          curious and interesting. Moreover, it throws light on a cel-
parture of Madame de Cinq-Cygne (whose reasons were well-           ebrated exploit in our modern annals,—I mean that of the
known to them), imitated de Marsay’s conduct and kept si-           Mont Saint-Bernard. Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,” he added,
lence. Gondreville, who had not recognized the marquise,            bowing to the two diplomats, “will see that in the element of
was ignorant of the cause of the general reticence, but the         profound intrigue the political men of the present day are far
habit of dealing with public matters had given him a certain        behind the Machiavellis whom the waves of the popular will
tact; he was moreover a clever man; he saw that his presence        lifted, in 1793, above the storm,—some of whom have ‘found,’
was embarrassing to the company and he took leave. De               as the old song says, ‘a haven.’ To be anything in France in
Marsay, standing with his back to the fire, watched the slow        these days a man must have been tossed in those tempests.”
departure of the old man in a manner which revealed the                “It seems to me,” said the princess, smiling, “that from
gravity of his thoughts.                                            that point of view the present state of things under your
  “I did wrong, madame, not to tell you the name of my ne-          regime leaves nothing to be desired.”
gotiator,” said the prime minister, listening for the sound of         A well-bred laugh went round the room, and even the prime
Malin’s wheels as they rolled away. “But I will redeem my fault     minister himself could not help smiling. The ambassadors
and give you the means of making your peace with the Cinq-          seemed impatient for the tale; de Marsay coughed dryly and
Cygnes. It is now thirty years since the affair I am about to       silence was obtained.

                                                                  186
                                                             Balzac
   “On a June night in 1800,” began the minister, “about            minister of foreign affairs; Fouche was minister of police;
three in the morning, just as daylight was beginning to pale        Sieyes had resigned the consulate.
the brilliancy of the wax candles, two men tired of playing at        “A small man, cold and stern in appearance, left his seat
bouillotte (or who were playing merely to keep others em-           and followed the three others, saying aloud in the hearing of
ployed) left the salon of the ministry of foreign affairs, then     the person from whom I have the information, ‘I mistrust
situated in the rue du Bac, and went apart into a boudoir.          the gambling of priests.’ This man was Carnot, minister of
These two men, of whom one is dead and the other has one            war. His remark did not trouble the two consuls who were
foot in the grave, were, each in his own way, equally extraor-      playing cards in the salon. Cambaceres and Lebrun were then
dinary. Both had been priests; both had abjured religion;           at the mercy of their ministers, men who were infinitely stron-
both were married. One had been merely an Oratorian, the            ger than they.
other had worn the mitre of a bishop. The first was named             “Nearly all these statesmen are dead, and no secrecy is due
Fouche; I shall not tell you the name of the second;* both          to them. They belong to history; and the history of that night
were then mere simple citizens—with very little simplicity.         and its consequences has been terrible. I tell it to you now
When they were seen to leave the salon and enter the bou-           because I alone know it; because Louis XVIII. never revealed
doir, the rest of the company present showed a certain curi-        the truth to that poor Madame de Cinq-Cygne; and because
osity. A third person followed them,—a man who thought              the present government which I serve is wholly indifferent
himself far stronger than the other two. His name was Sieyes,       as to whether the truth be known to the world or not.
and you all know that he too had been a priest before the             “All four of these personages sat down in the boudoir. The
Revolution. The one who walked with difficulty was then the         lame man undoubtedly closed the door before a word was
                                                                    said; it is even thought that he ran the bolt. It is only persons
*Talleyrand was still living when de Marsay related these cir-      of high rank who pay attention to such trifles. The three
cumstances.
                                                                  187
                                                    An Historical Mystery
priests had the livid, impassible faces which you all remem-           “‘There is no republic now,’ remarked Sieyes; ‘Bonaparte
ber. Carnot alone was ruddy. He was the first to speak. ‘What       is consul for ten years.’
is the point to be discussed?’ he asked. ‘France,’ must have           “‘He has more power than ever Cromwell had,’ said the
been the answer of the Prince (whom I admire as one of the          former bishop, ‘and he did not vote for the death of the king.’
most extraordinary men of our time). ‘The Republic,’ un-               “‘We have a master,’ said Fouche; ‘the question is, shall we
doubtedly said Fouche. ‘Power,’ probably said Sieyes.”              continue to keep him if he loses the battle or shall we return
   All present looked at each other. With voice, look, and          to a pure republic?’
gesture de Marsay had wonderfully represented the three men.           “‘France,’ replied Carnot, sententiously, ‘cannot resist ex-
   “The three priests fully understood one another,” he con-        cept she reverts to the old Conventional energy.’
tinued, resuming his narrative. “Carnot no doubt looked at            “‘I agree with Carnot,’ said Sieyes; ‘if Bonaparte returns
his colleagues and the ex-consul in a dignified manner. He          defeated we must put an end to him; he has let us know him
must, however, have felt bewildered in his own mind.                too well during the last seven months.’
  “‘Do you believe in the success of the army?’ Sieyes said to        “‘The army is for him,’ remarked Carnot, thoughtfully.
him.                                                                  “‘And the people for us!’ cried Fouche.
  “‘We may expect everything from Bonaparte,’ replied the             “‘You go fast, monsieur,’ said the Prince, in that deep bass
minister of war; ‘he has crossed the Alps.’                         voice which he still preserves and which now drove Fouche
  “‘At this moment,’ said the minister of foreign affairs, with     back into himself.
deliberate slowness, ‘he is playing his last stake.’                  “‘Be frank,’ said a voice, as a former Conventional rose
  “‘Come, let’s speak out,’ said Fouche; ‘what shall we do if       from a corner of the boudoir and showed himself; ‘if
the First Consul is defeated? Is it possible to collect another     Bonaparte returns a victor, we shall adore him; if vanquished,
army? Must we continue his humble servants?’                        we’ll bury him!’

                                                                  188
                                                               Balzac
  “‘So you were there, Malin, were you?’ said the Prince,               “‘A rare thing,’ said the Prince, smiling.
without betraying the least feeling. ‘Then you must be one              “‘We must act,’ interrupted Fouche. ‘In all probability the
of us; sit down’; and he made him a sign to be seated.                battle is now going on; the Austrians outnumber us; Genoa
  “It is to this one circumstance that Malin, a Conventional          has surrendered; Massena has committed the great mistake
of small repute, owes the position he afterwards obtained             of embarking for Antibes; it is very doubtful if he can rejoin
and, ultimately, that in which we see him at the present              Bonaparte, who will then be reduced to his own resources.’
moment. He proved discreet, and the ministers were faithful             “‘Who gave you that news?’ asked Carnot.
to him; but they made him the pivot of the machine and the              “‘It is sure,’ replied Fouche. ‘You will have the courier when
cat’s-paw of the machination. To return to my tale.                   the Bourse opens.’
  “‘Bonaparte has never yet been vanquished,’ cried Carnot,             “Those men didn’t mince their words,” said de Marsay,
in a tone of conviction, ‘and he has just surpassed Hannibal.’        smiling, and stopping short for a moment.
  “‘If the worst happens, here is the Directory,’ said Sieyes,          “‘Remember,’ continued Fouche, ‘it is not when the news
artfully, indicating with a wave of his hand the five persons         of a disaster comes that we can organize clubs, rouse the
present.                                                              patriotism of the people, and change the constitution. Our
  “‘And,’ added the Prince, ‘we are all committed to the main-        18th Brumaire ought to be prepared beforehand.’
tenance of the French republic; we three priests have literally         “‘Let us leave the care of that to the minister of police,’ said
unfrocked ourselves; the general, here, voted for the death of        the Prince, bowing to Fouche, ‘and beware ourselves of Lucien.’
the king; and you,’ he said, turning to Malin, ‘have got pos-         (Lucien Bonaparte was then minister of the interior.)
session of the property of emigres.’                                    “‘I’ll arrest him,’ said Fouche.
  “‘Yes, we have all the same interests,’ said Sieyes, dictatori-       “‘Messieurs!’ cried Sieyes, ‘our Directory ought not to be
ally, ‘and our interests are one with those of the nation.’           subject to anarchical changes. We must organize a govern-

                                                                    189
                                                    An Historical Mystery
ment of the few, a Senate for life, and an elective chamber         has opened with a victory at Montebello.’
the control of which shall be in our hands; for we ought to           “The three ministers exchanged looks.
profit by the blunders of the past.’                                  “‘Was it a general engagement?’ asked Carnot.
  “‘With such a system, there would be peace for me,’ re-             “‘No, a fight, in which Lannes has covered himself with
marked the ex-bishop.                                               glory. The affair was bloody. Attacked with ten thousand
  “‘Find me a sure man to negotiate with Moreau; for the            men by eighteen thousand, he was only saved by a division
Army of the Rhine will be our sole resource,’ cried Carnot,         sent to his support. Ott is in full retreat. The Austrian line is
who had been plunged in meditation.                                 broken.’
  “Ah!” said de Marsay, pausing, “those men were right. They          “‘When did the fight take place?’ asked Carnot.
were grand in this crisis. I should have done as they did”;           “‘On the 8th,’ replied Lucien.
then he resumed his narrative.                                        “‘And this is the 13th,’ said the sagacious minister. ‘Well, if
  “‘Messieurs!’ cried Sieyes, in a grave and solemn tone.           that is so, the destinies of France are in the scale at the very
  “That word ‘Messieurs!’ was perfectly understood by all           moment we are speaking.’”
present; all eyes expressed the same faith, the same promise,         (In fact, the battle of Marengo did begin at dawn of the
that of absolute silence, and unswerving loyalty to each other      14th.)
in case the First Consul returned triumphant.                         “‘Four days of fatal uncertainty!’ said Lucien.
  “‘We all know what we have to do,’ added Fouche.                    “‘Fatal?’ said the minister of foreign affairs, coldly and in-
  “Sieyes softly unbolted the door; his priestly ear had warned     terrogatively.
him. Lucien entered the room.                                         “‘Four days,’ echoed Fouche.
  “‘Good news!’ he said. ‘A courier has just brought Ma-              “An eye-witness told me,” said de Marsay, continuing the
dame Bonaparte a line from the First Consul. The campaign           narrative in his own person, “that the consuls, Cambaceres

                                                                  190
                                                             Balzac
and Lebrun, knew nothing of this momentous news until               France and revived the republicanism of 1793. As it is neces-
after the six personages returned to the salon. It was then         sary that I should explain this obscure corner of our history,
four in the morning. Fouche left first. That man of dark and        I must tell you that this agitation, starting from Fouche’s
mysterious genius, extraordinary, profound, and little un-          own hand (which held the wires of the former Montagne),
derstood, but who undoubtedly had the gifts of a Philip the         produced republican plots against the life of the First Con-
Second, a Tiberius and a Borgia, went at once to work with          sul, which was in peril from this cause long after the victory
an infernal and secret activity. His conduct at the time of the     of Marengo. It was Fouche’s sense of the evil he had thus
affair at Walcheren was that of a consummate soldier, a great       brought about which led him to warn Napoleon, who held a
politician, a far-seeing administrator. He was the only real        contrary opinion, that republicans were more concerned than
minister that Napoleon ever had. And you all know how he            royalists in the various conspiracies.
then alarmed him.                                                     “Fouche was an admirable judge of men; he relied on Sieyes
  “Fouche, Massena and the Prince,” continued de Marsay,            because of his thwarted ambition, on Talleyrand because he
reflectively, “are the three greatest men, the wisest heads in      was a great seigneur, on Carnot for his perfect honesty; but
diplomacy, war, and government, that I have ever known. If          the man he dreaded was the one whom you have seen here
Napoleon had frankly allied them with his work there would          this evening. I will now tell how he entangled that man in
no longer be a Europe, only a vast French Empire. Fouche            his meshes.
did not finally detach himself from Napoleon until he saw             “Malin was only Malin in those days,—a secret agent and
Sieyes and the Prince de Talleyrand shoved aside.                   correspondent of Louis XVIII. Fouche now compelled him
  “He now went to work, and in three days (all the while            to reduce to writing all the proclamations of the proposed
hiding the hand that stirred the ashes of the Montagne) he          revolutionary government, its warrants and edicts against the
had organized that general agitation which then arose all over      factions of the 18th Brumaire. An accomplice against his

                                                                  191
                                                    An Historical Mystery
own will, Malin was required to have these documents se-            till the news of the victory could be struck off!
cretly printed, and the copies held ready in his own house             “Malin, on whom the whole responsibility of the plot of
for distribution if Bonaparte were defeated. The printer was        which he had been the working agent was likely to fall if it
subsequently imprisoned and detained two months; he died            ever became known, was so terrified that he packed the proc-
in 1816, and always believed he had been employed by a              lamations and other papers in carts and took them down to
Montagnard conspiracy.                                              Gondreville in the night-time, where no doubt they were
  “One of the most singular scenes ever played by Fouche’s          hidden in the cellars of that chateau, which he had bought
police was caused by the blunder of an agent, who despatched        in the name of another man—who was it, by the bye? he
a courier to a famous banker of that day with the news of a         had him made chief-justice of an Imperial court—Ah!
defeat at Marengo. Victory, you will remember, did not de-          Marion. Having thus disposed of these damning proofs he
clare itself for Napoleon until seven o’clock in the evening of     returned to Paris to congratulate the First Consul on his vic-
the battle. At midday the banker’s agent, considering the day       tory. Napoleon, as you know, rushed from Italy to Paris after
lost and the French army about to be annihilated, hastened          the battle of Marengo with alarming celerity. Those who know
to despatch the courier. On receipt of that news Fouche was         the secret history of that time are well aware that a message
about to put into motion a whole army of bill-posters and           from Lucien brought him back. The minister of the interior
cries, with a truck full of proclamations, when the second          had foreseen the attitude of the Montagnard party, and
courier arrived with the news of the triumph which put all          though he had no idea of the quarter from which the wind
France beside itself with joy. There were heavy losses at the       really blew, he feared a storm. Incapable of suspecting the
Bourse, of course. But the criers and posters who were gath-        three ministers and Carnot, he attributed the movement
ered to announce the political death of Bonaparte and to            which stirred all France to the hatred his brother had excited
post up the new proclamations were only kept waiting awhile         by the 18th Brumaire, and to the confident belief of the

                                                                  192
                                                                Balzac
men of 1793 that defeat was certain in Italy.                          deavoring to negotiate with the First Consul.”
  “The battle of Marengo detained Napoleon on the plains                 “Talleyrand was playing whist in the salon of Madame de
of Lombardy until the 25th of June, but he reached Paris on            Luynes,” said a personage who had been listening attentively
the 2nd of July. Imagine the faces of the five conspirators as         to de Marsay’s narrative. “It was about three o’clock in the
they met the First Consul at the Tuileries, and congratulated          morning, when he pulled out his watch, looked at it, stopped
him on the victory. Fouche on that very occasion at the palace         the game, and asked his three companions abruptly and with-
told Malin to have patience, for all was not over yet. The truth       out any preface whether the Prince de Conde had any other
was, Talleyrand and Fouche both held that Bonaparte was not            children than the Duc d’Enghien. Such an absurd inquiry
as much bound to the principles of the Revolution as they              from the lips of Talleyrand caused the utmost surprise. ‘Why
were, and as he ought to be; and for this reason, as well as for       do you ask us what you know perfectly well yourself?’ they
their own safety, they subsequently, in 1804, buckled him ir-          said to him. ‘Only to let you know that the House of Conde
revocably, as they believed, to its cause by the affair of the Duc     comes to an end at this moment.’ Now Monsieur de
d’Enghien. The execution of that prince is connected by a              Talleyrand had been at the hotel de Luynes the entire evening,
series of discoverable ramifications with the plot which was           and he must have known that Bonaparte was absolutely un-
laid on that June evening in the boudoir of the ministry of            able to grant the pardon.”
foreign affairs, the night before the battle of Marengo. Those           “But,” said Eugene de Rastignac, “I don’t see in all this any
who have the means of judging, and who have known persons              connection with Madame de Cinq-Cygnes and her troubles.”
who were well-informed, are fully aware that Bonaparte was               “Ah, you were so young at that time, my dear fellow; I
handled like a child by Talleyrand and Fouche, who were de-            forgot to explain the conclusion. You all know the affair of
termined to alienate him irrevocably from the House of Bour-           the abduction of the Comte de Gondreville, then senator of
bon, whose agents were even then, at the last moment, en-              the Empire, for which the Simeuse brothers and the two

                                                                     193
                                                    An Historical Mystery
d’Hauteserres were condemned to the galleys,—an affair              attempted to arrest the Simeuse brothers. What happened
which did, in fact, lead to their death.”                           afterwards in connection with the senator’s abduction was
  De Marsay, entreated by several persons present to whom           the result of his private vengeance.
the circumstances were unknown, related the whole trial,              “These facts were known, of course, to Malin, and through
stating that the mysterious abductors were five sharks of the       him to Louis XVIII. You may therefore,” added de Marsay,
secret service of the ministry of the police, who were ordered      turning to the Princesse de Cadignan, “explain the whole
to obtain the proclamations of the would-be Directory which         matter to the Marquise de Cinq-Cygne, and show her why
Malin had surreptitiously taken from his house in Paris, and        Louis XVIII. thought fit to keep silence.”
which he had himself come to Gondreville for the express
purpose of destroying, being convinced at last that the Em-
pire was on a sure foundation and could not be overthrown.
“I have no doubt,” added de Marsay, “that Fouche took the
opportunity to have the house searched for the correspon-
dence between Malin and Louis XVIII., which was always
kept up, even during the Terror. But in this cruel affair there
was a private element, a passion of revenge in the mind of
the leader of the party, a man named Corentin, who is still
living, and who is one of those subaltern agents whom noth-
ing can replace and who makes himself felt by his amazing
ability. It appears that Madame, then Mademoiselle de Cinq-
Cygne, had ill-treated him on a former occasion when he

                                                                  194
                                                         Balzac
                       Addendum                                     The Seamy Side of History
                                                                    The Member for Arcis
The following personages appear in other stories of the Hu-
man Comedy.                                                     Corentin
                                                                 The Chouans
Beauvisage                                                       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
 The Member for Arcis                                            The Middle Classes


Berthier, Alexandre                                             Derville
 The Chouans                                                     Gobseck
                                                                 A Start in Life
Bonaparte, Lucien                                                Father Goriot
 The Vendetta                                                    Colonel Chabert
                                                                 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
Bordin
 The Seamy Side of History                                      Duroc, Gerard-Christophe-Michel
 The Commission in Lunacy                                        A Woman of Thirty
 Jealousies of a Country Town
                                                                Espard, Jeanne-Clementine-Athenais de Blamont-Chauvry,
Cinq-Cygne, Laurence, Comtesse (afterwards Marquise de)         Marquise d’
 The Secrets of a Princess                                       The Commission in Lunacy

                                                              195
                                       An Historical Mystery
 A Distinguished Provincial at Paris                 The Member for Arcis
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
 Letters of Two Brides                             Goujet, Abbe
 Another Study of Woman                             The Member for Arcis
 The Secrets of a Princess
 A Daughter of Eve                                 Grandlieu, Duc Ferdinand de
 Beatrix                                            The Thirteen
                                                    A Bachelor’s Establishment
Fouche, Joseph                                      Modeste Mignon
 The Chouans                                         Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
                                                   Granville, Vicomte de
Giguet, Colonel                                     A Second Home
 The Member for Arcis                               Farewell (Adieu)
                                                    Cesar Birotteau
Gondreville, Malin, Comte de                        Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
 A Start in Life                                    A Daughter of Eve
 Domestic Peace                                     Cousin Pons
 The Member for Arcis
                                                   Grevin
Gothard                                             A Start in Life

                                               196
                                       Balzac
 The Member for Arcis                         The Government Clerks


Hauteserre, D’                             Marion (of Arcis)
 The Member for Arcis                      The Member for Arcis


Lefebvre, Robert                           Marion (brother)
 Cousin Betty                              The Member for Arcis


Lenoncourt, Duc de                         Marsay, Henri de
 The Lily of the Valley                     The Thirteen
 Cesar Birotteau                           The Unconscious Humorists
 Jealousies of a Country Town               Another Study of Woman
 Beatrix                                   The Lily of the Valley
                                            Father Goriot
Louis XVIII., Louis-Stanislas-Xavier        Jealousies of a Country Town
 The Chouans                                Ursule Mirouet
 The Seamy Side of History                  A Marriage Settlement
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life             Lost Illusions
 The Ball at Sceaux                         A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
 The Lily of the Valley                     Letters of Two Brides
 Colonel Chabert                           The Ball at Sceaux

                                        197
                                  An Historical Mystery
 Modeste Mignon                                 The Member for Arcis
 The Secrets of a Princess
 A Daughter of Eve                            Michu, Francois
                                               Jealousies of a Country Town
Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de                     The Member for Arcis
 The Secrets of a Princess
 Modeste Mignon                               Michu, Madame Francois
 Jealousies of a Country Town                 The Member for Arcis
The Muse of the Department
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life               Murat, Joachim, Prince
 Letters of Two Brides                         The Vendetta
 Another Study of Woman                        Colonel Chabert
 The Member for Arcis                          Domestic Peace
                                               The Country Doctor
Maufrigneuse, Georges de
 The Secrets of a Princess                    Navarreins, Duc de
 Beatrix                                       A Bachelor’s Establishment
The Member for Arcis                           Colonel Chabert
                                               The Muse of the Department
Maufrigneuse, Berthe de                        The Thirteen
 Beatrix                                       Jealousies of a Country Town

                                          198
                                       Balzac
 The Peasantry                                The Magic Skin
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life               The Secrets of a Princess
 The Country Parson                           A Daughter of Eve
 The Magic Skin                               The Firm of Nucingen
 The Secrets of a Princess                    Cousin Betty
 Cousin Betty                                 The Member for Arcis
                                              The Unconscious Humorists
Peyrade
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life            Regnier, Claude-Antoine
                                            A Second Home
Rapp
 The Vendetta                              Simeuse, Admiral de
                                            Beatrix
Rastignac, Eugene de                        Jealousies of a Country Town
 Father Goriot
 A Distinguished Provincial at Paris       Steingel
 Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life             The Peasantry
 The Ball at Sceaux
 The Commission in Lunacy                  Talleyrand-Perigord, Charles-Maurice de
 A Study of Woman                           The Chouans
 Another Study of Woman                     The Thirteen

                                        199
                                       An Historical Mystery
 Letters of Two Brides
 Gaudissart II.


Vandenesse, Comte Felix de
 The Lily of the Valley
 Lost Illusions
 A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
                                                        To return to the Electronic
 Cesar Birotteau                                           Classics Series, go to
 Letters of Two Brides                                    http://www.hn.psu.edu/
 A Start in Life                                        faculty/jmanis/jimspdf.htm
 The Marriage Settlement
 The Secrets of a Princess
 Another Study of Woman
                                                       To return to the Balzac page,
 A Daughter of Eve                                                 go to
                                                         http://www.hn.psu.edu/
Varlet                                                  faculty/jmanis/balzac.htm
 The Gondreville Mystery
 The Member for Arcis




                                               200

				
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